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VOL. n. 



^ttliltefier (n orlrinarB to T^tx JWaJestB. 



BOOK 11. 


Chapter IV. 


Debauchery and Libertinism Introddced, by Means of 
Confession, into the Nunneries of Tuscany ... 3 

Chapter V. 

Depravity of the Monks, the Seducers and Corruptors 
of Morals, in other Parts of Italy, by Means of Con- 
fession 25 

Chapter VI. 

Fatal Effects and Dangers of Confession in France, as 
regards Morality 31 

Chapter VII. 

Trial and Persecution of Elizabeth Bavent, a Nun in the 
Convent of Saint-Louis de Louviers, Seduced in the 
Tribunal of Confession : a continuation of the pre- 
ceding Chapter 53 

Chapter VIII. 

Account of the Nun La Cadi^re's Lawsuit against Father 
Girard, a Jesuit, for Seduction, and other cases of the 
same nature 80 




Chapter I. 


Pecuniary Compensations and Taxes Imposed by the 
Popes and the Clergy for the Remission of Sios . .111 

Chaptek II, 
Indulgences, Pilgrimages, Crusades : a Source of 
Power and Wealth for the Clergy 140 

Chapter III. 
The Influence of Confessors upon the Minds of Kings. . 172 



Chapter I. 
Vices, Irregularities, and Abuses of Confession. . . .197 

Chapter II. 

Prejudices, Errors, and Superstition, Inherent in Con- 
fession 224 

Chapter III. 

Fatal Effects, Dangers, and Inutility of Auricular Con- 
fession 248 

BOOK 11. 





It is easy for monks and depraved priests to se- 
duce, by the means of confession, especially among 
the lower orders, females who live in the world: 
the. thing becomes still more so relatively to the 
nuns or pendonnaires confined in convents. De- 
pravity introduced into those houses spreads like 
an epidemic, with symptoms and consequences 
more or less fatal, according to the nature and in- 
clinations of individuals. 

This species of wickedness, as I have had oppor- 
timities of convincing myself from information de- " 
rived from different joumies in Italy and Spain, 


is less uncommon than is supposed, especially in 
countries where the priests, and principally the 
monks, have much influence, and enjoy the consi- 
deration of the people. Most of the seductions 
that take place in what is called the tribunal of 
penitence, remain unknown to the public, even 
when denunciations, avowals, or still more poritive 
results, exhibit proofs, either to families, or to the 
superior ecclesiasticss whether regular or secular. 
For, on the one hand, the honour of the persons 
compromised and that of their parents ; and, on 
the other, the interests of the Church, and even 
an ill-understood reserve, which civil authority 
thinks proper to use on these occasions, as well as 
the impunity usually attached to so great a crime, 
are so many causes that prevent it from coming 
to the knowledge of the public ; which, of course, 
renders it stiU more common. 

We could cite, in support of what has just been 
said, and in confirmation of what will follow, seve- 
ral facts which occurred in the convents of Paris 
before the revolution of 1789, and particularly in 
the abbey of Pentemont, where, having been in- 
troduced by college companions, engaged in the 
ecclesiastical profession, we were able to judge, 
ex avditu et msu^ of the irregularities which pre- 
vailed in that convent. We shall,*therefore, re- 
main satisfied, without entering into any other 
details, with making known the excessive depra- 


vity that had long prevailed in the convents of 
Tuscany, the existence of which has been officially 
stated by the investigation made on this subject 
by order of the Grand Duke Leopold, and by the 
care of the pious and learned Ricci, bishop of 
Pistoia. We derive what follows from the facts, 
aets, correspondence, and orders of Leopold, con- 
cerning this affair, and which, remaining in the 
possession of the family of Ricci, have been com- 
municated by them to M. de Potter, who has re- 
produced them in a work entitled " Vie de Sdpion 
de Hicci, evSque de Pistoie et Prato,^^ (Bruxelles, 
1825, 3 vol. 8vo.) The monachal libertinism, in- 
troduced into convents of Tuscany by means of 
confession, dated from a period very anterior to 
the reign of Leopold. For more than a century 
and a half, the dissoluteness of the order of the 
Dominicans had excited reproach and public dis- 
satisfaction. The spiritual direction practised by 
the monks towards the .nuns, was a source of 
scandal which was maintained and fomented by 
interest, dissipation, and vicious habits.* We find, 
in 1642, a petition addressed to the grand duke of 
that period, and signed b/ the holy standard- 
bearer {gonfalonier )i and other persons of Pistoia, 
to the number of one hundred and ninety-four. 

* Sorgente di scandal], a cui aprirono largo campo V inte- 
resse, la dissapazione ed il mal costume. 


Therein, they begged that a speedy remedy might 
be provided for the indecent conduct of the monks 
in the convents of Saint Catharine and Saint 
Lucia.* Even this affair .was hushed up, in order 
not to compromise the first families of the nobility, 
to which these ntms belonged-f 

This kind of debauchery, which had become 
excessive during the reign of Leopold, was known 
by means of the inquiries instituted by that prince, 
in consequence of the denunciations of two nuns 
of the convent of Saint Catherine of Pistoia, who 
entreated him to save them from the execrable 
principles professed by those monks, their direc- 

Thus they learnt that the monks used to eat and 
drink with the nuns whom they preferred, and 
that they passed the time with them in their pri- 
vate cells. The greater part of the girls used to 
deprive themselves of all their money and goods, 
and would even go without the necessaries of life 
to enrich their lovers. § ** I do not state anything," 

♦ L' indecente contegno che si teneva dai frati domenicani 
nei coventi di S. Caterina e di S. Lucia. 

f Tanto delicato et geloso, che a pena se ne puo dare 
minimo cenno, non che conyenga metteme in carta alcuno 
particolare, essendo qaeste monache sangue principalissimo 
di questa citt^. 

{ De esecrande massime deifirati domenicani lorodirettori. 

§ Quesiyi mangiando e bevendo coUe lore piii confidenti 


says Ricd, ^^o£ which I have not proofs." He also 
remarks that the monks were in the habit of pass- 
ing the night in the dormitory of the nims, and 
that this custom had long been observed by the 
priors and confessors of the nuns.* 

The inquiry instituted by Leopold must neces- 
sarily, as Eicci tells us, have made the scandal 
public, by forcing several persons to reveal the 
most in&mous iniquities authorised by the confes- 
sors and superiors of the Dominicans.t Leopold 
caused aU the nuns to be interrogated by the lieu- 
tenant of police, and forbade the monks, upon pain 
of imprisonment, to approach the monasteries, on 
account of the depraved conduct of aU those who 
performed the duties of priors and confessors. It 
was discovered that this corruption had been pro- 
pagated by the monks in the convents of Florence, 
Prato, Pisa, Siena, Perugia, Faenza, &c, &c 

We find, in Leopold's correspondence, a letter 
that had been addressed to him by a nun of Cas- 

parziali, trattenendosi a solo a sola m qualche cella, e stando 
fino a dormire in camera apperta. 

* Di queste irregolaritsi, vengono imputati, non solo i 
present! padii priore e confessore, ma k costante il pessimo 
stile di tutti quelli che sono destinati di tempo in tempo a 
quest! impieghi. 

t A segno di render publico lo scandalo di condurre molti 
a palesar le pin infami iniquity autorizate dai confessori e 
dai direttori di quelFordine. 


tiglione Fiorentino, which proves that the Domi- 
nicans were not the only corrupters of women. 
"Our convent," says she, "is under the depen- 
dence and direction of the Franciscan friars {recoU 
lets)^ or minor observantms, and, consequently, in 

the greatest laxity and in extreme immorality 

I cannot complain to the provincial ; for the monks 
will never listen to anything in complaints of this 
kind...... The nuns are obliged to allow such enor- 
mous sins to be committed, if they do not wish to 

be shut up for life, under any pretence The 

commissioner is invited to the convent, and goes 
with the young nuns into their chambers, with 
one of them at a time, or with two at most, if they 
are such as may be trusted, and then he locks him- 
self in The monks who are intimate with the 

nuns make them bolder than lackeys A few 

years ago, one was found in the convent during 
the night, and the constables came to turn him 
out I" This nun terminates her letter by entreat- 
ing him not to divulge her name, for, she observes, 
if what she had just written to the prince were 
known, it would be enough to cause her to be 
poisoned by her companions, so low were they 
sunk in vice. 

It may be supposed that amid depravity so 
generally spread throughout Italy, the Jesuits 
were not the only monks whose virtue had re- 
mained itftact, and who had not known how to 


make use of confesdon for a vile ptirpose. Ac- 
cordingly, an ecclesiastic of Borne wrote to the 
bishop of Pistoia : ** I have been told that it had 
been known, through private letters, that the first 
seducer in the convent of Saint Catherine of Pis- 
toia, had been a Jesuit. I know of a monastery 
where a Jesuit used to practise improper familiari- 
ties with the nuns ; he used to say that by obey- 
ing him they did a very virtuous action, since 
they showed much repugnance.*' It appears, 
moreover, that this was a practice to which the 
monks had accustomed the nuns ; for the Bishop 
of Pistoia, having presented himself before some 
nuns obstinate in vice, in order to restore them by 
gentle means to sentiments of virtue, and having 
told them that he had brought them the little Jesu^y 
one of them replied in the most indecent manner. 

Six nuns of the convent of Saint Catherine of 
Pistoia denounced the infamous practices of which 
their confessors and superiors were guilty. In 
this petition, which was presented to Leopold, we 
find the following facts : *^ The monks often come 
to meet us at the side of the sacristy, of which 
they have almost aU the keys ; and there is there 
an iron-grating sufficiently large, where they con- 
duct themselves in the most shameless manner." 

" If, besides, they find any opportunity of enter- 
ing the convent, under any kind of pretence, they 
come and remain alone in the chambers of such as 


are devoted to them. All of them, even the pro- 
vincials, are, more or less, of the same stamp. 
They are not ashamed to take advantage of the 
circumstances in which they visit the convent, to 
do the things of which we have just spoken. They 
give utterance to brutal maxims, which suppose an 
absence of every moral feeling. They are inces- 
santly repeating that we are too happy in being 
able to satisfy all our inclinations. They say that 
after having left the world everything is ended 
with us. They add, that even the writings of 
Saint Paul ought to serve to enlighten us. 

**A11 sorts of indecencies are suffered to be com- 
mitted in the parlour. Though we often warn 
them, yet they never prevent any of the dangerous 
connexions which are formed in the convent, and 
never make it their duty to interrupt them. Ac- 
cordingly, it has very frequently happened, in 
consequence of this, that men who had managed, 
by address, to get the keys of the house, have 
entered at night.* Such as allow themselves to be 
led by their counsels are cherished and protected on 
every occasion, and are gratified even in their most 
extravagant caprices : the others must resolve to 
outrage their consciences by following the same 
course, or to undergo an endless persecution. 

* E da questo ne ^ acaduto di esser entrato piu volte gente 
in tempo di notte a deliziarsi e riposare colle monache. 


This 16 precisely what is now taking place among 

The inveterate corruption that had long ex- 
isted among ihe monks whose duty it was to con- 
fess nuns was again stated in a report made to 
Leopold, in obedience to his orders, by the war- 
dens of the Convent of Saint Catherine of Siena, 
in the City of Pistoia. After having mentioned 
in this report several things which prove the im- 
morality of the monks — as, for instance, that they 
repaired to the cells of the nuns, or remained alone 
with them — ^it is added : ** If they administer the 
consolations of religion to any dying person, they 
eat and sleep in the monastery, and they dine with 
whomsoever they please, even with the vestry- 
nuns. Not only are the fethers, priors, and the 
present confessors, accused of this negligence and 
these irregularities, but it is avowed that the bad 
conduct of which the latter have been guilty had, 
for a long time, become a habit with all the friars 
who were successively destined to perform these 

The depravity of morals, and the licentiousness 
introduced into the convents, are further esta- 

* Di queste irregolarit^ vengono imputati, non solo i pre- 
sent! P. P. piiore e confessore, ma b costante U pessimo stile 
di tutti quelli che sono destinati di tempo in tempo a quest! 


blished by the letters which the prioress of the 
convent of Saint Catherine, at Pistoia, named Pe- 
roccini, wrote to Doctor Camporini, the rector 
of the episcopal seminary of that town. ** To an- 
swer the questions you ask me I should require 
much time, and an excellent memory to remember 
the many things that have happened during the 
twenty-five years that I have spent among monks, 
and all those also which I have heard related about 
them. I shall not speak of friars who are no 
more. As to tibe others whose conduct is 
blameable, there are more than you imagine; 
among others (here she names nine of them). But 
why name any more? Excepting three or four 
friars among so many monks, whether Uving or 
dead, whom I have known, there is not one who 
was not of the same stamp. They all profess the 
same maxims, and their conduct is the same. 
Their intercourse with the nuns is of the utmost 
femiliarity.* When the monks come to visit a 
sick person, it is their custom to sup with the 
nuns, to sing, dance, and play with them, and they 
sleep in the convent. Their maxim is that God 
has forbidden hatred and not lovcf I affirm that 

* Toltime tre o quattro di tanti vivi e morti che ho trat- 
tati, sono tutti dell' istesso calibro, hanno tutti Tistesse mas- 
sime et T istesso contegno. Si tratta con le monache con piii 
confidenza che se fossero amogliati. 

t Hanno per massima che iddio ha prohibito 1* odio e non 


they have the^ art of corrupting, not only the 
young and innocent, but even the most circum- 
spect and knowing; and, without a miracle, no 
one call frequent their company without at length 
yielding to this species of diabolical temptation. 
^^ The priests are the husbands of the nuns, and 

the lay-brothers of the lay-sisters How many 

bishops are there not in the Pontifical States who 
have also discovered immorality in the convents of 
their dioceses ? However, they have never rooted 
out the evil with which, nevertheless, they are so 
well acquainted. They lacked the means of being 
able to inspire some confidence in the nuns, whom 
the monks make believe that they who reveal 
what passes in the interior of the order are excom- 
municated. God is my witness that I do not 
speak from ill-will. The monks have never done 
anything to me personally of which I can com- 
plain ; but I cannot help saying, that no order of 
men is more perverse, and that it would be in vain 
to seek for any persons more worthless than they. 
Though secular priests are ever so wicked, they 
can never attain, in any respect, the wickedness of 
the friars: the artifices which the monks know 
how to employ to impose on the world are beyond 
all description."* 

r amore, e che Y uomo e fatto per la donna e la donna per 
r uomo. 

* Ma dico che gente ribalda come ifrati non ce n'L Per 


Another nun makes the following declaration. 
She says with regard to the solicitations made to 
her by her confessor : ** I testified to him the fear 
and scruples which they excited within me.*" He 
replied: **Must I tell you plainly? You are a 
precious simpleton. Follow my advice. Only 
try, and you will soon thank me for my lessons ; 
be sure your scruples will cease." Whenever this 
tome monk paid his visits to the convent he re- 
newed his attempts to gain his object. 

"When the Dominicans came among us to 
assist the sick they remained whole days together, 
and entered alone, under any pretence, into the 
chambers of certain nuns. They came every day 
to the grate, and never spoke to us but in disgust- 
ing language, revealing to us the confessions they 
had heard," &c. &c. 

*^ There exists another cursed abuse, which is, 
that the nuns choose a husband among the monks 
when they have scarcely made their vows." 

What appears most revolting in this affair of 
the convents, is the conduct and principles of two 
wicked nuns, who, infected with the abominable 
maxims of the Dominicans, had abandoned them- 
selves more excessively than their female com- 
panions to the most revolting licentiousness — ^nay, 

quanto i secolari sien cattivi, non gli anivaiio in nessun 
geuere, e la furberia che hanno i frati presso al mundo e ai 
superiori non si puo spiegar. 


to the vilest profanation of what Catholics consider 
as most sacred. 

The facts we relate are scandalous, no doubt ; 
but the opprobrium recoils upon those who give 
occasion to such revelations by their acts, their 
culpable tolerance, fatal institutions, and prac- 
tices likely to foment the passions and to corrupt 
innocence. It is by concealing iniquities of this 
kind from the knowledge of the public, and by 
securing impunity for them, under pretence of 
protecting religion, that they provoke instead of 
checking them. The example of chastisement 
being the most powerful bar that can be opposed 
to crime, it is allowing it to have its full swing 
when we do not inflict upon it publicly the 
pimishment it deserves ; a chastisement the more 
necessary as it is very diflScult to get at the know- 
lekige of the offence. 

The interrogatory of the nuns and other persons 
who inhabited the convent of Saint Catherine of 
Prato, took place according to the orders of Leo- 
pold, and was composed of a commission appointed 
by Bishop RiccL It was written entirely by the 
hand of Abbot Lorenzo Palli, the episcopal vicar 
of Prato, and was signed by all the female inhabi- 
tants of the convent, to the number of fifteen 
choral nuns, thirteen lay-sisters, and five boarders. 
We will not mention the irreligion, inamorality, 
impiety, or heresy, of which the monks are accused 


in this interrogatory — cases which very seldom 
occur in the tribunal of confession. 

It results from the general depositions of almost 
all the nims, that Sister Buonamici and Sister 
Spighi, the former aged fifty and the latter thirty- 
eight, had endeavoured to corrupt the nuns by in- 
decent and obscene actions. More than half the 
nuns depose that Sister Buonamici had behaved 
scandalously with her own brother, an Augustin 

friar and priest, and that Sister Spighi had 

an intrigue with a certain'ifoam Botello, a Portu- 
guese Jesuit. 

Seven or eight years before, they had corrupted 
and enticed into their party three other nuns, one 
of whom was stiU a novice. They used to say to 
such as they wanted to deprave, that they had 
learned in mystic theology the doctrine which they 
taught them. It was, indeed, the books of ascetic 
meditation that had induced or authorised the irre- 
gularities of these wretched nuns : they made use 
of these books to lead their companions astray, and 
gave them a sensual interpretation. (For the sake 
of decency, and in order not to shock the reader, 
we beg to omit the rest of this interrogatory.) 

It is diflScult to people who are unacquainted 
with the spirit of those corporations, to imagine to 
what an excess the wickedness of the monks may 
be carried, or to conceive how such irregularities 
could have existed so long in Tuscany. Even 


when they were brought to light by a virtuous 
prelate, the impudence of the monks was far from 
being disconcerted. They were seen to brave the 
authority of the bishop and that of the prince, to 
dissemble their crimes, and persevere in their 
abominable practices ; and without Leopold's firm- 
ness in unveiling and prosecuting this mystery of 
iniquity, nothing could have put an end to it. 
The obstinate resistance made by these wretched 
nuns to the introduction of a more regular course 
of life, was owing to the perfidious counsels they 
received from the monks, who had accustomed 
them to a blind confidence and a boundless sub- 
mission to their will. " They used to say," says 
the Bishop of Pistoia, **that, if they acted other- 
wise, they would have incurred the excommunica- 
tion fulminated by the holy father Pius V. ; and 
several of them were so strongly possessed with 
this fear, that one of them, being dangerously ill, 
never asked for the sacrament to be administered 
to her." 

We find among the papers of Ricci a letter of a 
nun who expresses herself thus : *^ Who could ever 
imagine how far the spirit of address and intrigue 
of the monks can extend, or how many artifices, of 
all kinds, they have at their disposal, to resist 
every event : they are really astonishing. What! 
Pretend to struggle against the Sovereign himself! 
Every time I think of the trick of the provincial, 


to make us take the communion, in order to oblige 
us afterwards to sign a certificate stating that we 
practise the sacraments, and that everything here 
is orderly, 1 cannot recover from my astonishment. 
Have not the monks made use of the medium of 
confession to discover what we had revealed about 
them in our depositions?" 

Not satisfied with demoralising these poor nuns, 
the monks managed to be fed and kept by them, 
by getting from them all the money they had at 
their disposal : this is what we find firom a denun- 
ciation made by two nuns of the convent of Saint 
Catherine of Pistoia to the Grand-Duke Leopold, 
who express themselves in these terms : ^^ Most of 
the nuns deprived themselves of all their money 
and effects, and went without the very necessaries 
of life, to enrich their lovers." 

But what is not less revolting, is, that the Court 
of Rome, though informed of the scandalous im- 
morality that existed in the convents of Tuscany, 
and long solicited to apply a remedy, refused to 
take, for this purpose, the means it had in its 
power, but maintained and protected the monks 
against all the denunciations brought against them. 
As late as 1774, Bishop Alamani had written in 
these terms to the conclave of the cardinals : *^ Al- 
most all the nuns depose to the immorality and 
libertinism of their directors, to the material doc- 
trine and brutal sentiments with which they en- 


deavour to inspire them." The memorial or attes- 
tation of the nuns who complained of the infamous 
- conduct of the monks had been handed to the car- 
dinals by order of the bishop. 

Kicci ssLjSf in his Memoirs, ^^that the Dominican 
nuns had several times, but' always in vain, had 
recourse to the holy see and the superiors of their 
own order; but that they had never received a 
single word of consolation, or even an answer." 
He himself addressed a letter to Pope Pius V., in 
which he informs him of the irregularities that 
were taking place in the convents under the 
direction of the Dominicans. He expresses him- 
self as follows in another letter to Cardinal Cor- 
sini : " When writing to the Pope, it is not meet 
that I should enter into all these infamous details 
which, if I communicated them to you, would fill 
you with horror. Yet, of what excesses have not 
those wicked Dominicans been guilty ? The pro- 
vincials and priors, instead of remedying so many 
irregularities, of which the confessors alone were 
the cause, have allowed these guilty confessors to 
have their own way, and they have plunged them- 
selves into the same iniquities."* 

* Eppure di che cosa sono stati capaci questi disgraziati 
domenicani ? i provinciali, i priori, invece di remediare a tanti 
disordini dei confessori, o hanno lasciato, o hanno anche essi 
commesse.le medesime iniquity. 


The monks had s6 corrupted the mmds and 
opinions of those nuns^ and had so much influence 
over them, that the latter opposed for a long time 
an obstinate resistance to the measures taken by 
Ricci and the Grand Duke to put an end to this 
vileness: a resistance moreover encouraged by 
the court of Kome. ** The monks, the nuncios," 
says Ricci, "and even the cardinal protector of 
the order, never ceased assuring them, either by 
letter, or through the medium of secret emissaries, 
that, if they remained firm, the tempest, with 
which they were threatened, would soon be dis- 

One of the means which had been employed to 
deprave by degrees these unfortunate nuns, was 
the reading and interpreting of those books of 
mysticism which they are accustomed to have read 
to young females in convents, to work their minds 
into a state of feverish excitement and fanaticism. 
We find in a letter of Mengoni, an abbot, that 
two nuns misused the works of the blessed Jean- 
de-la-Croix and other books on mystic theology, 
to entice into sin their fellow-nuns, novices, and 

'*' La lusinga in cui le tenevano i frati, il numio, o lo stesso 
cardinale protettore dell' ordine, che o per lettere o per mezzo 
di emissari le assiguravano, che quando esse fossero state 
ferme, in brevi si sarebbe dissipata la tempesta. 

t E di altri libri di mystica theologia, per condurre al mal 
&re le consorelle, le noyizie e 1* educande. 


These seducers passed from lectures to con- 
versations, by which they gradually led the nuns 
astray, either during confession, or in the visits 
they paid them, even to the most immoral ideas, 
and thence to practices the most criminal. In 
short, we see, from several other declarations, 
that the habitual expressions and actions of those 
monkft tended to corrupt the persons confined in 
the monasteries under their direction. We must 
not forget a means of corruption employed by the 
monks, that of the devotion paid to the sacred 
heart of JestiSy repeated every day to fanaticize 
the ignorant and credulous. It is right to make 
the public aware of what kind of superstition and 
immorality may be brought about by these absurd 
practices, at a time when the Jesuit-sacerdotal 
party is endeavouring to revive, for the purpose of 
enslaving the minds of the people, whatever the 
ignorance and superstition of the middle ages in- 
vented most contrary to the true sentiments and 
genuine principles of religion. 

The abbot Longini wrote to the Bishop of 
Pistoia, on sending him two engravings repre- 
senting the Saviour with his breast open and his 
heart in his hand, and said to him: "Here are 
the last spoils of the numerous errors of the mm 
Buonamici. The engravings, here inclosed, were 
given her by a Jesuit. She was so fond of them, 
and kept them so carefully, that she wore them 


about her. I will not tell your lordship what 
abominable ideas she had attached to these pic- 
^tures, &c."* 

The facts related in this chapter must demon- 
strate that the monkish system, together with that 
of confession, and a Jesuitical clergy, supported 
by the anti-national policy of the govemlnent, and 
by that of a clergy devoted to the court of Borne, 
are as pernicious to the purity of morals as to the 
tranquillity of families. We have seen, indeed, 
to what an extent depravity had spread, not only 
among the nuns, but also among the boarders who 
belonged to the first families of Tuscany. This 
is the fate which awaits those young persons 
whose improvident parents, blinded by prejudices 
or enticed by fashion, entrust the future lives of 
their children to these houses, which have been 
instituted and are directed according to principles 
of bigotry, superstition, and — ^what is worse — of 
Jesuitism. People may think that it is impossible 
for such serious irregularities to be introduced at 
the present day into female convents by means of 
confession. It is true, the influence of the secular 
and regular clergy, and that of the court of Kome, 
have not yet attained the necessary degree of 
power for such crimes to be committed with im- 

♦ lo non diro a V. S. ill. R. Y idea abominevole cheaveva 
attaccato a questa imagine. 


punity, should they happen to be discovered. 
Besides^ the freedom of the press would expose 
them, and stop their course. But it is not less 
certain that effects will result from this double 
system not less fatal to individuals than to the 
whole body of society. For, how can public ven- 
geance reach crimes which, for the reasons we 
have pointed out, seldom or never come to their 
knowledge ? 

Moreover, the facts which have very lately trans- 
pired in France, as well as what has lately hap- 
pened in Tuscany, prove that the evil, as we have 
just said, will not cease to exist, although the 
clergy have lost their ancient privileges, notwith- 
standing the abolition of special and secret juris- 
dictions, and a greater freedom of the press ; and 
that, as long as that cause is not destroyed, its 
effects must necessarily be ever reproduced. If 
there be a country where people ought to be safe 
fix)m such outrages it is France, and even Tus- 
cany, where they have been divulged and branded 
with infamy in so solemn a manner. Yet, here is 
a fact, related by several newspapers in Septem- 
ber, 1844: — 

Crescioghi, an officiating priest in a parish of 
the Apennines, had been accused of outrages upon 
three young girls. He appeared before the tri- 
bimal of justice with the victims of his crime. 
Several witnesses inculpated the defendant in the 


most serious manner. . After having denied his 
crime with the greatest sang-froid^ he at length 
avowed the principal fact, still denying, however, 
the aggravating circumstances. In accordance 
with the charge delivered by the public minister, 
the tribunal condemned CresciogK to five years* 
seclusion in the Convent of Avergna, the eccle- 
siastical prison of Tuscany, and, moreover, to a 
banishment of twenty years. 




We have related many scandalous facts in the 
course of this work ; others will be found in this 
chapter which are not less so. It is painful to 
expose to public view such hideous and revolting 
descriptions ; but great evUs require strong reme- 
dies, especially at a moment when an attempt is 
making to cause institutions and practices so per- 
nicious as monastic and sacerdotal confession to 
prevail in France. People must at length be made 
to know the consequences of such a system ; pub- 
lic opinion must be sufficiently struck with the 
greatness of the evil to oppose a barrier to this 
torrent which threatens to invade everything. 
VOL. XL * 


We must at length warn the public against this 
confusion of precepts and pretended reli^ous du- 
ties^ and against institutions founded to maintain 
the power of a foreign domination. 

We have derived the facts we are going to quote 
from the proixs'-verbaux of the Inquisition of a 
town in Italy, which were carried off at the tinae 
when the French, being masters of Italy, destroyed 
that tribunal They have been communicated to 
us on condition of mentioning neither the name of 
the place nor that of the person from whom we 
have received themu We may judge from these 
facts, which happened in a small district, and in a 
rather short space of time, what are the immoral 
results of confession throughout Italy, and the ex- 
cessive depravity of the monks. For, save a cer- 
tain number of exceptions, we find among the 
corporations of that country the same principles 
and the same morals. We have reason to believe 
so, from the special informations we have derived 
at different periods, during a rather long residence 
ill that qlas^c land of monachism. 

The rasters of the Inquisition which have been 
0(»nmunicated to us were very incomplete, and 
contained only the transactions of a few years. 
We h^ve extracted from them what more particur* 
larly concerns temptation inherent in confessioik 
What a mass of turpitude and infiuny would be 
unveiled to the public, if it were possible to make 


them acquainted with the &cts recorded in the 
registers of the different counties where the In- 
quisition has been engaged in these inquiries! 
Add, moreover, a still more considerable number of 
&cts, which take place between the guilty parties, 
without anybody ever being informed of them. 

Here then is an extract of what has appeared 
to us the most remarkable, omitting entirely what 
concerns heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, covenants 
and commerce with the devil, philtres to provoke 
love, freemasonry, treasure-finding, and other mi- 
serable practices, which betoken the ignorance, 
superstition, and stupidity of the monks and people. 

A woman, thirty-seven years of age, named 
Bartolommea, the wife of a man named Bracolino, 
declared to the Inquisition that fether Santozi, of 
the order of the Servites, had a very bad reputation, 
and lived very disorderly with a married woman. 

She relates, moreover, that this monk, with 
others of his convent, habitually made use of licen- 
tious expressions to women. 

A nun, named Ancilla Sei, of the order of Saint 
Francis, declared that she had been tempted^ at 
the tribunal of confession, by the director of her 
convent, named Fortunate. He began with telling 
this nun that he loved her tenderly, and he used to 
call her his little dove, nina Colombcu 

A mm, thirty years of age, named Uluminata 
Guidi, a claustral sister in a convent of Saint 


Francis, said she had denounced, a few years be- 
fore, to the tribunal of the Inquisition, a priest 
who had tempted her in the confessional for three 

We see, from the declarations made by this girl, 
" for the acquittal of her conscience," as she terms 
it, to what a state seclusion and perpetual celibacy 
will reduce certain girls. This unfortunate crea- 
ture avows that the passion that pervaded her 
being was so powerful within her, that, from the 
age of eighteen to twenty-nine, she had prayed on 
her knees all that time, recommending herself to 
the most holy Madonna, and saying At}e Mariasy 
and Pater Nosters, to obtain her intercession for a 
purpose which may be understood without a more 
particular allusion to it. 

Seeing that the prayers to the Virgin did not 
succeed, she applied to the devil, saying : Diavoloy 
fammi venire qualche persona per peccare. The 
devil hearkened to her prayers. But we will not 
detain the reader by relating all the things of 
which this unfortunate girl accuses herself before 
the Inquisition, and which are merely a mixture 
of the grossest superstition and the reveries of an 
imagination led astray by the knavery of the per- 
sons about her, and who conducted themselves 
towards her in a manner that I could not relate 
without offending propriety. 

Margaret Monti, twenty-two years of age, de- 


claxes that the priest Turrini had tempted her in 
the confessional. This priest having been ques- 
tioned^ on the 22nd of June, 1791, answered that 
he had been a confessor in the convent of Saint 
Sebastian for three years, and that he had made 
overtures in the confessional, by word and deed, to 
sister Gertrude Fantini ; that he had often kissed 
her through the grating of the confessional, and 
that he had commanded her to commit shameftd 
actions. He accused himself also of having used 
licentious language to a woman named Ottavia 
Paolucci, every time she came to confess to him, 
which happened every week or fortnight : that he 
solicited her to love him by calling her endearing 
names, and by kissing her through the grating of 
the confessional; that all this took place before, 
during, and after confession ; and, finally, that he 
had written her an immoral letter. He had also 
behaved in the same way to another woman named 
Margaret Monti. 

A maid, aged thirty-three, named Giulia Mat- 
tioli, declares that her confessor, Felice, a monk, 
aged forty-five, had asked her several most inde- 
cent questions. (Here follow, in the original, 
more than twenty depositions of such a nature, that 
we would not dare to publish them in any lan- 

We suppress several far more abominable facts 
of the same kind, which we have found in the 


proch-^verbaux of the Inquisition; being unwilling 
to detain the reader any longer in this monkish 
mire which we have been compelled to make him 
psss through, in order to give him something ap- 
proaxshing an idea of the degree of corruption 
which exists but too often in both male and female 

In so doing, our chief purpose has been to 
make known the evils which may result from 
auricular confession, and the evils to which young 
persons of both sexes are exposed whose education 
is entrusted to monastic corporations. These ex- 
umples, as well as those which I relate throughout 
this volume, and the induction which must be 
formed from them, as a proof of the existence of a 
great many other facts which pass in the shade of 
impenetrable secrecy, ought to induce parents to 
reflect seriously concerning the dangers to which 
they expose their children, in abandqning the 
direction of their consciences and education to 
associations which, on their re-establishment in 
France, have been impregnated, without excep- 
tion, with the fatal principles of Jesuitism. 




Italy and Spain are not the only countries in 
Christendom where the seduction of females has 
been effected by means of confession. The same 
irregularities inherent in this institution have ex- 
isted, though less generally, both in France and 
Germany. It is through the establishment of the 
Inquisition in the two former countries that we 
have been enabled to become acquainted with a 
few facts relative to this kind of seduction ; whence 
it evidently follows that it was not less common in 
localities about which we have no information of 
this nature. But what a hideous spectacle would 
be presented to our mind^ were all the secret acts 
of this description brought to light which have been 
buried in profound darkness. The facts relative 


to France, which we are about to relate, prove 
that our country has not been, at any period, free 
from this criminal outrage ; that it is still exposed 
to it, and that it will not cease to be so, as long as 
auricular confession shall be in use. We shall 
find indubitable proofs of this, especially in the 
two following chapters. 

Though this confession was not presented as 
sacramental in the ninth century, we nevertheless 
find a priest attempting, by temptation, to effect 
the ruin of a nun. It was on that occasion that 
Charles the Bald convoked, on the 13th of June, 
874, a council at Douai, in which they proceeded 
against a priest, named Huntberg, accused of hav- 
ing been intimate with an abbess, named Douda. 
The coimcil would not give evidence to the denial 
and oath of the culprit. His guilt was proved by 
letters he had written, and by the testimony of 
two nuns, the accomplices of Douda. He was 
punished in consequence, but secretly, to avoid 

Various councils held in the twelfth century 
pronounce pains and penalties against dissolute 
priests. If it was in vain they strove to abolish a 
custom that had long subsisted, and which stood 
in lieu of legal marriage, it was at least one way 
of preventing seduction. " In the time of the 

♦ Concil. Galli., t. xiii., p. 414. 


cardinal legate Jacques de Yitri^ as it is reported 
in the Antiquith de Paris, the priests kept conca* 
bines ; nay, on leaving their beds, they made no 
scruple of going to say mass." It was to find 
some new remedy for this usage, which had not 
ceased to exist, that canons were enacted, towards 
the end of the thirteenth century, to oblige con- 
fessors to reveal the sins and the names of the 
priests who kept concubines. This custom had 
been established in Spain as well as in other parts 
of Christendom, as may be seen from one of the 
articles of the councils held at Toledo, in 1302, 
which is in the following terms : ** As certain ec- 
clesiastics, as indifferent about their honour as 
their salvation, pass their lives in the most enor- 
mous dissoluteness, &c"* 

Nicholas Clemagis, a secretary to Benedict XIIL, 
who wrote about the year 1430, does not give a 
more flattering idea of the chastity of the clergy in 
his time, when he says, " the bishops of France per- 
mit curates, for a certain contribution, to keep con- 
cubines. Prepared in this manner," says he, " they 
present themselves at the altar." Clemagis gived 
a deplorable description of the disorderly and im- 
moral conduct of all the ecclesiastical orders. " The 
canons," says he, " bring up pubUcly the children 

* Quia clerici non nulli famse suae prodigi et salutis, in con* 
cubinatu publice yitam ducunt enormiter dissolutam, &c. 



of those whom they keep with them as their own 
wives." He calls the monks " devouring wolves," 
who, after cloying themselves, as well as women 
who are not their own, and children who belong to 
them, with wines and viands, riot in every kind of 
immorality. As to the convents of women, he 
describes them as follows : — " The monasteries of 
nuns are now no longer sanctuaries dedicated to 
the Deity, but execrable houses, dens of young 
immodest women, who only seek to satisfy their 
vile propensities. There is now no difference 
between making a young girl take the veil, and 
exposing her to the utmost degradation." 

Now, we ask, what counsels — ^what direction in 
the path of virtue, could .priests and monks so 
excessively corrupt, give to the persons who came 
to kneel at their feet at the tribunal of penitence ? 
Let them boast to us now of the benefits and the 
moral improvement produced at all times by sacer- 
dotal and sacramental confession, and still more of 
the spiritual grace of which it is the source 1 

The same corruption continued in France, and 
was propagated in the following centuries. 

Henri Etienne, after speaking of the vileness 
that had prevailed before his time through the fatal 
effects of auricular confession, informs us that it 
had not diminished in his day: he gives several 
instances in proof of this, with which we are un- < 
willing to di^ust the reader, and then adds: 


"Now, besides these instances, enough are seen 
every day, in which it is suflSciently apparent that 
auricular confession serves priests and monks for 
snares wherewith to entrap women." 

He accuses them even of infanticide, and quotes 
a contemporary author in these terms : ^^ Pontanus 
also relates an example of this infamous cruelty, 
which," he says, " is much more common with nuns 
than with others." 

The same corruption was propagated and con- 
tinued in France during the following century. 
A female relative of Cardinal Berulle, having be- 
come enciente in a Carmelite convent, notwith- 
standing the rigorous discipline of that order, the 
Jesuits, who, perhaps, were alone guilty, cast this 
crime on the cardinal It was at nearly the same 
period that those events took place in the convent 
of the Ursulines at Louvain, to which we shall 
devote one of the following chapters. 

Here is an anecdote about thirty years younger, 
related by Bussy Babutin: it demonstrates to 
what a degree of infamy the intimacy of the 
priests with women had attained. ** Last Thurs- 
day?" says Kabutin, "they arrested two priests, 
one of whom, named Le Sage, said that a young 
lady, who is even now at the Bois (Chfiteau) de 
Vincennes, having fallen in love with Kubantel, 
had come to him to ask for secret means to make 
him love her. A fortnight after, she had come to 


him to complam that Bubantel was still indifferent • 
towards hen He had then told her that some- 
thing mare must be added to the saciifice: and 
the lady performed all these ceremonies." 

Saint Simon speaks of another disorderly im- 
postor, a director of women, who was appointed, 
about the year 1700, on account of his talents 
and his piety, to succeed BancS in the abbey of 
La Trappe. " He wrote,** says Saint Simon, **to 
a nun: his letter was a tissue of the most vil- 
lanous things imaginable, the grossest in name — 
vile terms of endearment of a reckless and im- 
moral monk, which would make the most aban- 
doned tremble : their expectations, regrets, hopes — 
everything was stated in the plainest and most 
unreserved language. I do not believe that more 
abominable expressions are vented in several days 
in the vilest places." 

But we have seen enough of past times. Let 
us now see whether confession be less dangerous 
with a clergy of recent formation. 

Before speaking of the actions of cure Min- 
gret, which wear a character of sacrilege and 
atrocity to which it would be difficult to find a 
parallel in andent or modem history ; we will men- 
tion, besides the facts already quoted in the other 
chapters of this work, several stibomations which 
have come to the knowledge of the public in the 
course of legal investigation. 


Everybody knows the crimes of Contraffatto 
and Lacolanffe, njs well as those of Billet, yiear of 
Gex (in Ain), condemned to ten years' confine- 
ment for haying made a bad use of confession^ and 
alleging^ by way of excuse^ that "Saint Augustin 
had done much worse than he." The newspapers 
have spoken of that other priest, named RoubigjiaCy 
who used to invite girls to his house, and had 
fascinated one of them, aged nineteen, by the 
means of confession, and in the hope of her salva- 
tion, so far as to cover her body with hair-*cloth 
furnished with iron-points, which had almost re- 
duced this unfortunate creature to the point of 
death, through the dreadful sufferings he made 
her endure ; a means he had employed in order to 
commit the most base actions. Will it be believed 
that so criminal a person^ when his infamous treat- 
ment of this young girl had excited public indig- 
nation, was able to find an asylum in the house of 
the Jesuits at Toulouse I 

What shall we say <^ another officiating priest, 
named Jemty, who, banished from several dioceses, 
on account of the depravity of his morals, had been 
declared guilty of violating chastity, and who had 
the impudence to plead in excuse that his crime 
had not been committed in the exercise of his 
sacerdotal duties ? Other facts of the same kind 
might be quoted; but it is important to make 
]mown, in all its details, the crime of Mingrat, 


who avoided the penalty of death due to his 
offence, through the protection of the government, 
and that of the clergy, and whom, for this reason, 
they allowed to escape. 

Paul Courier has described, with as much truth 
as talent, the whole of this atrocious affair, which 
we will now copy textually from his writings : — 

^^His name is Mingrat; and he was scarcely 
more than twenty, when, on leaving the seminary, 
he was made curate of Saint-Opre, a village six 
leagues from Grenoble. There, his zeal was im- 
mediately displayed against dancing and every 
kind of amusement. He forbade, or caused to be 
forbidden, by the mayor and under-prefect, who 
durst not refuse, all assemblies, balls, rural festi- 
vals, and caused the cabarets to be shut, not only 
during divine service, but — so they say — ^the 
whole of Sundays and on holidays. 

"But Abb6 Mingrat would not suffer a bare 
arm to appear at church ; nay, he could not, with- 
out horror, suspect the form of a female from the 
shape of her dress. Partial to the good old time, 
moreover, he preached on ancient manners, resto- 
ration and restitution, at the age of twenty, ftd- 
minating against dancing and short sleeves. People 
in oflSce supported . him, the higher classes en- 
couraged him, and the people listened to him, as 
did also the gendarmes and the garde^hampitrey 
who never failed to attend his sermon. In a 


word, he wished, with the assistance of his supe- 
riors, to re-establish the purity of the ancien regime. 
The better to succeed, he formed in the house of 
his aunt, who had come with him to Saint-Opre, a 
school for little girls, whom she taught to read, 
instructing and preparing them for the conununion. 
He was present at the lessons, and directed the 

**Two of them, nearly fifteen years of age, 
seemed to attract his particidar attention* He 
invited them to his house, a distinction coveted 
by all their companions, and flattering to their 
parents. These girls go, therefore, to the house 
of the young curate. For some years past, this 
has been done everywhere, both in town and 
country ; the magistrates approve of it, and honest 
people augur from it the revival of good morals. 
So they often went there together or singly : it 
was to listen to Christian lectures, to repeat the 
catechism or learn verses, psalms, and orisons; 
they went so often, that, at length, one of them 
fell ill. 

*^ Bead history, Mr. Anonymous, and compare 
the past with the present. For my part, I do 
nothing else, it is the best study in the world. I 
find that, in the days of our father, Gmllaiune 
BrOs6, a curate of a parish in Paris, catechised 
young girls who used to meet in a lady's house in 
order to receive pious lessons. There, among 


others, came constantly the only daughter of the 
President de Neuiily, a girl thirteen or fourteen 
years of age, who soon became enctente. In times 
of good works, such an accident happened without 
much attention being paid to it, when girls had 
not a president for their father. The latter brou^t 
an action; GuiUaume was sentenced; but the 
clergy interfered. Justice has never fair play 
against the clergy, who first of all will not be 
judged by it, and at that time could lead the 
people at pleasure. GuiUaume laughed at parlia- 
ment, president, and daughter, and was made 
Bishop of Serdis, devoted to the pope — his creator, 
as they say at Kome. 

'^ There is another fact of the same kind, less 
ancient, but horrible, and thereby more similar to 
Mingrat's offence. Not forty years ago, some 
young ladies were brought up in a convent near 
Nogent-le-Rotrou, under the direction of a saintly 
man, a prStre-abbe, who confessed, taught, and 
catechised them for many years, without any sus- 
picion being raised against him. But, at length, it 
was discovered that he had seduced several of 
them, and that, when the situation of any one was 
likely to prove the means of exposing him, he 
poisoned her, watched her, and kept everybody 
away, imder pretence of confession or dying ex- 
hortations, never leaving her till she was dead, 
coffined, and buried. Such facts seldcmi come to 


the knowledge of the public. This saintly per- 
sonage was secretly removed and confined accord- 
ing to the custom of that period. Let us return 
to the Abb^ Mingrat. 

** The girl was likely to become a mother. Not 
knowing what to do, and afraid of her mother, she 
went to confess to the curate of a neighbouring 
village — a man very different from Mingrat. He 
allowed dancing, and paid no attention to short 
sleeves. The poor child told him her misfortune, 
and, refiising to declare who was the cause of it, 
would accuse herself alone. * But, my dear,' said 
the curate, ^ is he a married man ?' * No.' ^ You 
must marry him.' * Impossible !' She was mis- 
taken ; for who can prevent a man from marrying, 
if unmarried, or from making a wife of her whom 
lie has made a mother? What law forbids it? 
or what morality ? She, poor child, ought to have 
said, ' God, men, reason, nature, the Gospel, and 
religion, require it ; but the Pope will not allow 
it; and, on that account, I die — for that I am 
lost.' But scarcely did she reply, rather with sobs 
than words, to the question of this good curate, 
who at last, however, succeeded in making her 
name the Abb^ Mingrat. The same evening he 
went and spoke to him. The other was angry at 
the first word, and railed furiously against the 
wickedness of the age, accusing Voltaire and 
Bousseau, philosophy, and the corruption of the 


revolutioiu The good man tried all in yidn ; he 
could get nothing else out of him. A few days 
after, the girl disappeared, without either her 
friends or relations being able to hear anything of 
her. An inquiry was made in every direction, 
but long in vsun; at length she was no longer 
thought of. Such was the first part of Mingrat's 

"Part the second is known from the public 
papers, where you may have seen how, in conse- 
quence of reports in circulation, he was transferred 
from Saint Opre to the curacy of Saint Quentin. 
This is their discipline. When a priest has caused 
scandal in any place he is sent elsewhere. In 
serious cases only he is suspended a sacris — ^for- 
bidden for a time to say mass. But, if justice 
should interfere, the clergy protest immediately ; 
for no one can judge the anointed. The Abb6 
Gel^e, an ex-Capuchin, and the curate of Pezai, 
in Poitu, having committed a gross and glaring 
fault against his vow of chastity, justice was mute 
in spite of every complaint. He was removed to 
where he now is. He does not, however, seem to 
have grown more virtuous, any more than the 
Abbe Mingrat, who, redoubling his austerity in 
his new parish, made war more than ever against 
dancing and short sleeves. A certain devotee, 
young and handsome, and married early to a tur- 
ner, took him for a confessor, and often saw him 


at her own house — ^without it being talked of how- 
ever—for she was reputed very virtuous. One 
evening, when she had come rather late to con- 
fess, he detained her a long time, and then sent 
her to see his aimt, who lived with him, but whom 
he knew to be absent and not expected to return 
that day ; then, starting by a different road, he 
got there before the young woman, went in, and 
when she arrived, made her enter. What then 
took place no one knows. He carried her out 
dead to a grotto near the village, where he cut her 
up into pieces with a pocket-knife — he cast them 
one by one into the Bivere Is^re. These frag- 
ments, found some time after floating upon the 
water, were put together and recognised, as was 
also the bloody knife, left behind by him in the 
grotto. Then it was they remembered the girl of 
Saint Opre. 

*^ You know also how he escaped every pursuit, 
which, had it not been for the mayor, woidd never 
have taken place. By the mayor alone all the 
facts were stated and published, in spite of bigots 
t and the clergy, who would not allow it to be men- 
tioned. Such has been their maxim in every age. 
* Should a priest happen,' says Fenelon, ^ to com- 
mit a fault, people ought modestly to cast down 
their eyes and remain silent.' But the report of such 
an atrocious crime having quickly spread, suspi- 
cion was attempted to be cast upon another person. 


Even a grand-vicar of Grenoble, the Abb6 Bo^ 
chard, preached a sermon expressly upon rash 
judgments, saying, * Brethren, beware ! such a one 
may appear to you guilty, who is obliged by his 
duty, though it cost him his honour and life, to 
remain silent upon the crime of another; and 
malice is so great in this age, that to appear inno- 
cent, people do not cease to calumniate and tra- 
duce the most honourable people.' It was the 
woman's husband whom they insinuated thereby 
to be the real murderer, and the curate as a martyr 
to the secrecy of confession. This pious forgery, 
supported by all the saintly cabal, would, perhaps, 
have succeeded and beguiled the public, had it not 
been for the Mayor of Saint Quentin, who, being 
neither a bigot nor devoted to them, but simply an 
honest man, forced justice to act in consequence of 
his investigations. The curate was not arrested, be- 
cause the Lord has said, ^ Touch not mine anointed.' 
Condemned by default, he retired to Savoy, where 
he now passes for a saint and performs miracles. 
They make pilgrimages to him from the valley, and 
from the mountain ; they all flock to him, especially 
the women, to see him, and implore his benedic- 
tion. That hand blesses them; he holds forth 
that hand, which is kissed by women and girls, 
without thinking, without trembling, yet knowing 
what he has done ; for, the place being so near, 
nobody is ignorant of it. But they forgive him 


much^ because he has loved much; or, perchance5 
he repents, and then he is more worthy than 
ninety-nine of the just. Should he again confess 
some pretty yoimg woman, and she resist him, he 
will serve her as he did the others, without losing 
paradise on that account. Saint Bos had killed 
both father and mother. Saint Mingrat kills only 
his mistresses, and afterwards does penance." 

It would be impossible to describe the dangers 
of sacerdotal confession in more lively colours, or 
with a more logical argument, than Paul Courier 
has done in the following extract, which will, 
doubtless, be read again with pleasure. These are 
his expressions : — 

"What a life, indeed, is that of our priests! 
what a condition ! Love, and especially marriage, 
are forbidden them ; yet women are given up to 
them I They may not have one, but they may live 
familiarly with them all. This is but little ; but 
their confidence, their intimacy, the secrecy of their 
private actions, of all their thoughts 1 The inno- 
cent little girl, imder the maternal wing, hears, 
from the first, the priest, who soon calling her, con- 
verses with her apart ; who, first, before she can 
err, speaks to her of sin. When schooled, he mar- 
ries her ; when married, he still confesses and go- 
verns her. He precedes the husband in her affec- 
tions, and ever stands his ground. What she dares 
not confide to her mother, or avow to her husband. 


a priest must know: he demands, and knows it; 
yet will he not be her lover. Indeed, how could 
he be? Is he not in holy orders? He hears a 
young woman whispering to him her faults, feel- 
ings, wishes, weaknesses; he inhales her sighs, 
without feeling any emotion ; and he is five-and- 
twenty ! 

" Confess a woman ! imagine what it is. Quite 
at the bottom of the church stands a kind of ward- 
robe, or watch-box, fixed against the wall on pur- 
pose, wherein this priest — ^not Mingrat, but some 
honest man — I will grant, well-behaved and pious, 
such as I have known, but still a man and young — 
they are almost all so — is waiting in the evening, 
after vespers, for the young penitent whom he 
loves ; she knows it : love cannot hide from the 
person loved. Here you will stop me : his charac- 
ter as a priest, his education, his vow ... I tell 
you, the vow has nothing to do with it ; every vilr 
lage curate, on leaving the seminary, healthy, 
young, and active, loves, beyond all doubt, one of 
his parishioners. It cannot be otherwise ; and if 
you contest the point, I will tell you more — ^he 
loves them all, at least those of his own age ; but 
he prefers one, who seems to him, if not handsomer 
than the others, more modest, more prudent, and 
whom he would marry; he would make her a 
virtuous, pious wife, were there no pope. He sees 
her every day, meets her. at church or elsewhere ; 


and sitting facing her during the long evenings in 
winter, he imprudently quaffs the poison of her 

^^ Now, pray tell me, when he hears that young 
girl on the morrow approaching the confessional — 
when he knows her step, and can say Hhere she is !' 
' — ^what is passing in the heart of the poor con- 
fessor? Honesty, duty, wise resolutions, are here 
of little service, without some especial grace from 
heaven. I suppose him a saint: unable to fly, 
he groans aloud; his father recommends him to 
God ; but if he be only a man, he trembles, and, in 
spite of himself — ^perhaps without knowing it — ^he 
already hopes. She comes, and kneels to him — ^to 
him whose heart is beating and throbbing. You 
are young, sir, or have been young ; now, between 
ourselves, what think you of such a situation? 
Alcme, mostly, without any other witnesses than 
those walls and vaulted roofs, they converse — of 
what? Alas! of everything that is not innocent. 
They speak, or rather whisper, and their mouths 
are close to each other : they breathe each other's 
breath ! That lasts an hoiu: or more, and is often 

"Think not I invent. This scene has taken 
place, and throughout France, exactly as I have 
described it; it is renewed every day by forty 
thousand young priests with as many girls whom 
they love, because they are men ; whom they con-r 


fess in this way, converse with, tSte a tSte, visit, 
because they are priests, but do not marry, because 
the pope opposes it. The pope pardons them 
everything, save marriage, and would rather have 
priests adulterers, unchaste, debauched, assassins, 
like Mingrat, than married. Mingrat kills his 
mistresses ; he is defended from the pulpit : here 
they preach for him; there they canonize him: 
but if he married one — ^what a monster I He 
would never find an asylum. Good and speedy 
justice would be done, not forgetting the mayor 
who married them. But what mayor would be so 

" Now, sir, reflect, and see whether it be pos- 
sible even to combine in the selfsame person two 
more contrary things than the duty of the con- 
fessor and the vow of chastity : what must be the 
fate of those poor young men, between the pro- 
hibition of possessing what nature impels them to 
love, and the obligation of conversing intimately, 
confidentially, with the objects of their love ; 
whether, in a word, this monstrous combination be 
not enough to drive some raving mad, and to make 
others — I do not say guilty, for the really guilty 
are those who, being magistrates, suffer young men 
to confess young girls — ^but criminals, and all ex- 
tremely miserable. In this matter I know their 

^* At Leghorn, I became acquainted with Cardi- 


nal Fortini, perhaps still living, one of the scholars 
of Italy, and one of the most honest men in the 
world. Connected with him at first by our com- 
mon studies, and afterwards by mutual affection, I 
saw him frequently, and, by some accident or 
other, I happened one day to ask him whether he 
had kept his vow of chastity. He assured me that 
he had; and I think he spoke the truth on that 
subject as on everything else. " But," added he, 
^* I would not pass through such trials again, to be 
made a young man of twenty !" He was then 
seventy. " God knows how I suffered, and wUl, I 
hope, set it to my accoimt ; but I would not go 
through it again." That is what he told me ; and 
I noted his language so well in my memory, that 
I remember his very words. 

" At Rocca di Papa, I lodged with the vicar, 
in whose house I fell iU. He showed me great 
attention, and took that opportunity to speak to 
me of God, of whom I thought more, and more 
often than he, but in a different manner. He 
wanted to convert me — * to save me,' as he said. I 
listened to him with pleasure ; for he spoke Tus- 
can, and was one of the finest speakers of that 
divine language. At length I recovered ; we be- 
came friends, and, as he would stiU be preaching 
to me, I said to him : * Dear Abbe, to-morrow I 
will confess; if you will marry and live happy, 
you can only be so with a wife, and I know the 


one you admire. You see her every day, you 
love her, you are dying for her.' He laid his 
hand on my mouth, and I saw his eyes were full 
of tears. Since then, I have heard very strange 
things related of him, which reminded me of what 
I had read about Origen, 

" Such is the misery to which they are reduced 
by their wofiil condition. But why, you will say, 
does a man turn priest, when susceptible of such 
impressions? Sir, do you think they make them- 
selves what they are? Brought up from their 
infancy by the papal militia, they are seduced, 
and enlisted ; they pronounce that abominable im- 
pious vow — ^never to have a wife, a family, or a 
home — ^when they hardly know its meaning, when 
young novices, and, therefore, excusable; for a 
man who would take this vow, thoroughly imder- 
standing it, ought to be seized, imprisoned, or 
transported far away to some desert island. This 
vow made, they are anointed, and cannot unsay 
it; but if the engagement were for a term of 
years, how few would renew it! Girls and wo- 
men are immediately given up to them to govern. 
The sulphur and brimstone are brought to the 
fire ; for the fire has promised, so they say, not to 
bum. Four thousand young men have the gift 
of continency, invested with their gowns, and are, 
henceforth, as if they had no longer either sex or 
bodies 1 Do you credit it ? Sober some may be — 


if he may be called sober who combats nature. 
A few triumph; but how few, compared with 
those whom grace abandons in such temptations ? 
Grace is the lot of few, and fails even the 
irighteous man. How can they, so yoxmg, in all 
the ardour of youth, have this gift, when old men 
have it not ? 

•* The Parisian curate, whom Vautrin, the up- 
holsterer, having surprised with his wife, killed 
and threw out of window, a few years ago (the 
adventure is well-known in the quartier du Tem- 
pUy though hushed up on account of the clergy) ; 
that curate was sixty years old, and he of P4zai is 
sixty-eight; this did not, however, prevent him, 
very lately, from consorting with a low beggar- 
girl. He made her his mistress — another affair 
hushed up by the credit of the anointed ; for the 
father brought an action, finding his daughter en- 
ciente, but the Church interfered. Think you that 
he who cannot, at that age, abstain from vice, 
could, at the age of twenty or twenty-five, have 
governed innocent lovely creatures? K you have 
a daughter, sir, commit her to the protection of 
the soldier, the hussar, who is able to marry her, 
rather than to these seminarists. How many af- 
fairs to be hushed up would there be, if all that 
passes in secrecy had glaring consequences, or if 
there were many mayors Uke him of Saint Quen- 
tin. What horrors appear even from such facts 



as transpire, in spite of the connivance of the 
magistrates, the measures taken to prevent every 
kind of publicity, the silence imposed on such 
matters, and — without even speaking of crimes — 
what sources of immorality, debauchery, and cor- 
ruption, are those two papal inventions the celi- 
bacy of priests and auricular confession T What 
harm they do ! How much good do they prevent ! 
Look and admire where the family of the priest is 
a model for all the others, where the pastor 
teaches nothing but what he can show in himself 
when speaking to fathers or husbands, giving the 
example with the precept. There, women are not 
so imprudent as to tell a man their sins; the 
clergy is not independent of the people, the state, 
and the law; — all abuses established among us in 
times of the most stupid barbarism and the most 
cruel ignorance, and hard to maintain in these 
days, when the world reasons and everybody can 
count his fingers." 




Never did a prosecution present scenes in 
which ignorance, superstition, and immorality, 
were more grossly conspicuous than that brought 
against the convent of Saint Elizabeth de Lou- 
viers, but principally against Elizabeth Bavent, a 
victim alike of the directors who had been inflicted 
on her, and of the unchaste nuns of that convent. 
We find in this trial a series of facts, denuncia- 
tions, and testimony, in which abominable priests 
are the chief performers, and a young, pious, vir- 
tuous maiden is corrupted and becomes the victim 
of guilt. Corruption of the confessors, credulous 
bigotry on the part of the accused, barbarous pre- 


judices of the judges, and of the civil and reli^ous 
authorities, — such were the component parts of 
this affair. All these iniquities were, as we shall 
see, the result of sacerdotal confession, practised 
in a house where fifty nuns were secluded ; such 
is the evident resxdt of this trial, which re-echoed, 
near two hundred years ago, throughout Europe, 
and which, though forgotten in these days, de- 
serves, neverthdess, to be known by such as seek 
to observe the effects produced on weak minds, on 
the ignorance and credulity of early years, by doc- 
trines stamped with error and superstition. We 
find here, moreover, a new proof of the evils which 
are the too common result of the practice we 

The transactions of this trial are recorded in a 
work on the Possession of the Nuns of Saint Eliza- 
beth de Louviers,* published by an ignorant, su- 
perstitious, and fanatical &iar. It is at the end of 
this volume that we meet with some official pieces, 
and, among others, the Confession of Elizabeth 
Bavent, written by herself, whence we have de- 
rived the most remarkable details of this a&ir. 
But, before producing them, it ib important to 

* La Fiete affligee, ou discours historique et th^ologique 
de la possession des religieuses dites de Sainte-Elizabeth de 
Louviers ; divis^ en trois parties, par le R. P. Esprit da 
Bosroger, provincial des R. R. P. P. capudns de la province 
de Nonnandie. Rouen^ 1652, in 4^ 


speak of some events in her life, and her mis- 

Elizabeth Bavent^ bom at Bouen, lost her 
parents in her ninth year. Her unde placed her 
with a laundress, with whom she remained for 
three years. All the documents equally assert 
that her conduct throughout that period was irre- 
proadhable. Her character, the turn of her mind, 
and still more the suggestions of her early confes- 
sors, inspired her with a taste for a devout life, 
and the desire of attaining perfection. For this 
purpose, she resolved to retire from the world. 
She had iX)nceived so high an opinion of the order 
of Saint Francis, that she determined to enter the 
convent of Saint Elizabeth de Louviers. She left 
it, soon after, in consequence of the di^ust and 
aversion she felt at the vile practices of the nuns, 
in which she was forced to participate. But the 
irresistible preference she entertained for Saint 
Francis induced her to return to his convent. " If 
I were not so timid," says she in her confession, 
** I would blame my devotion to the order of Saint 
Francis — ^at least I believe it was indiscreet, exces- 
sive, and scrupulous. I was obstinately bent on 
belonging to some convent that followed his rules. 
.... Such was one of the sources of my misfor- 
tunes, and I think that after I had abandoned 
God, by acting contrary to his inspirations, he 
abandoned me to myself, to follow my indiscretion; 


for in spite of my relations^ and without paying 
any attention to the advice that was ^ven me by 
several persons, I was determined to remain as a 
nun of the turning-box." 

She was handed over to two confessors, who, 
under pretence of perfection and an intimate union 
with God, fascinated her mind so far as to make 
her believe that the actions which they prevailed 
upon her, as well as upon the other nuns to com- 
mit, were by no means contrary to piety and 
religion. " I was so far good," she said at times, 
when she reflected upon what was required of her, 
" that my revolted conscience was sensible of my 
miseries, and I used to reproach myself for all that 
passed between Picard (the name of her second 
confessor) and myself." 

This unfortunate, simple, and credulous girl, 
whose mind was transported to the most extra- 
vagant devotion, was hurried away by her bound- 
less confidence and her blind submission to the 
most nefarious of wretches, into the most shame- 
ful proceedings, and even into a belief in the prac- 
tices of magic, professed by her directors. She 
speaks, in her confession, of a donation she had 
made of her body to the devil, at the suggestion of 
that villanous Picard. But what proves a fimd of 
purity and candour in her soul is, that while 
openly avowing her errors and faults, she attri- 
butes them to herself, though they were entirely 


owing to the directors who had been impoeed ujkmi 
her. "I state them here (in her confession) in 
order to confound myself the more^ and the better 
to make known iny horrible wickedness." In 
another place she describes the dreadfiil position in 
which she was kept. " No one in the house wiub 
ignorant of that man's attachment to me^ of his 
privacy, or of my frequent visits to his rocwn at his 
instance. • . • But the nims turned a deaf ear, and 
would never allow me to go and confess elsewhere, 
though I entreated them, in the hope that an 
honest man might find a remedy for my poor con- 
B<aence, and tell me what I had to do. For this I 
neither ought nor wish to excuse myself, by so 
trifling and frivolous a reason, though indeed they 
would have accused me as of a great crime, had I 
been to any other confessor, iuasmuch as this 
would have been revealing the whole secret of the 
monastery. No, I myself, either from stupidity or 
inclination, am the cause of my own irregularities, 
from which a prudent charitable confessor would 
easily have redeemed me." 

The tranquillity and resignation with which she 
bore the ealumny, ill-treatment, and sufferings in- 
flicted upon her by the nuns and her confessors, 
are beyond aJl praise. On their refusing her even 
the most necessary things in her malady and suf- 
ferings, she exclaims : ^* and as I deserve to be in 
hell, the place due to my faults, can I com- 



plain that they do wrong, when they refiise me any 
little comforts in my affliction ?" 

Under the weighty calumny and fabe accusations 
brought against her, whilst the proceedings of the 
nuns of Louviers were in progress, Elizabeth 
Bavent determined to write and publish her con-r 
fession, conformably to the opinion of an honest 
priest who had been given her by the penitentiary 
of Rouen, and could sympathise in her misfor- 
tunes. This unfortunate girl had to struggle, not 
only against the confessors of the convent and the 
nuns whom they had corrupted, but also against 
the monks and a great part of the clergy, who had 
leagued with the devotees, led astray by their 
intrigues. For the sake of saving guilty confes- 
sors from punishment, and for the honour of con- 
fession, they did not hesitate to provoke, by their 
intrigues and by infamous means, the condemnation 
of a girl whose errors and irregularities were occa- 
sioned by the directors, who made her the instru- 
ment of their vileness. 

"This is," she says, "what I lay before the 
court in this paper, where I have separated the 
truth from falsehood, to serve as it may please 
God, before whom I protest I have nothing else 
to say. K I endeavour to accompany it with some 
sentiments of sorrow and humiliation, which are 
imparted to me by Jesus Christ, I do only my 
duty ; and I pray Him to give me more. But I 


am very sure that I speak in the most sincere and 
faithful manner possible^ and as I spoke when I 
made my last confession to prepare myself for 
execution. So, never have I opened my mouth to 
declare what is here recorded, without first in- 
voking, on my knees, the Holy Ghost, which is the 
spirit of truth." 

She complains ^^ of the nuns of Louviers accu- 
sing her of having been led astray by a Franciscan 
named Bontamps, at the time she was with the 
laundress ; of having been very often conducted to 
the infernal sabhaty with other girls ; of having 
been married to the devil Dagon, under the form 
of a young man." She says she has no knowledge 
of the facts imputed to her, and that she has con- 
sulted the confessor she had at that time, who as- 
sures her there was no such thing ; but that, on the 
contrary, she was at that age remarkable for her 
piety, and that her old companions bore witness to 
the propriety of her conduct at that period. She 
adds that the nims of Louviers had brought this 
accusation against her in order to cause her to be 
considered by weak minds as a girl who was already 
a witch or magician when she first went to the 
monastery, and had caused their afflictions. . ♦ • 
** But I vow before God, and call Him who will 
be my chief judge to witness, that I was pure when 
I asked them to receive me. I heartily wish I was 
in the same condition as when I went in." 


*^ She found," she says, "debauchery established 
in the convent. David, who directed us all, was a 
horrible priest, and quite unworthy of so divine 
and holy a profession. He used to read to us the 
^ Book of the Will of Crod^ eompoBed by a Capu- 
chin &iar, which, at that time, served for our paiv 
ticular and only rule in the establishment; but he 
explained it in a strange manner, which was never- 
theless approved of, and followed by the mothen 
who governed us. This bad man and dangerous 
priest, under pretence of introducing perfect obe- 
dience, which ought to extend even to what is 
most difficult and repugnant to nature, introduced 
abominable practices, by which God has been dis- 
honoured and insulted in an extraordinary manner. 
Can I dare even to name them? He used to say 
that we ought to exterminate sin by sin, to return 
to innooency and resemble our first parents, who 
were not ashamed of their nudity. Under this 
seeming language, what impurities and disgusting 
actions did they not cause to be committed ? 
Those nuns were considered the most holy, per- 
fect, and virtuous, who stripped, and danced, Gt 
appeared in the choir, and went to the garden in 
that state. This is not all : they accustomed us to 
do what I dare not relate,* to commit the most hor- 

* The translator has been obliged to curtail seveml sen- 
tences in this chapter for reasons already mentioned. 


rihle and infiunoiis sins, which my confessor told me 
Jhad been remarked by Saint Paul^ in his Epistle to 
the Bomans, as having been instances of the most 
excessive immorality during the reign of the prince 
ci hell among the Pagans.* I have seen them pn)- 
fiuiing the most holy sacrament of the altar, which 
was at the diq)osal of the nuns. What penance 
must they have recourse to^ in oixler to obtain par- 
don for so many and such horrible crimes ! 

**To tell the truth, I felt an unaccountable aver- 
cdon to these infamous practices, and I would not 
always do what they required of me. But I ac- 
cordingly was considered a disobedient, rebellious, 
obstinate, proud, head-strong girl. Would to God 
I had been more so 1 it would have been better for 
my soul, and I should not then have committed so 
great a number of offences. Once especially I 
resisted much about taking the comnjunion, stript 
to my waist I was, however, forced to do so, and 
BA I endeavoured to cover myself at least with the 
cx)Hmxuni<Mi table-cloth, Herre David (the princi- 
pal author of all this, and who had commanded the 
matrcms to do so on my accoimt) made me lay it 
down ; and, again, as I tried to cover myself with 
my hands, which were &ee, he ccMumanded me to 
|oin them. This was a horrible jH'oceeding, of 
which I could not help ccHoplaining to those who 
had forced me to it. I believe that was tibe prin- 

* Epistle to the Bom., ch. i., v. 26. 


cipal cause of my being sent away, which was so 
far from grieving me, that I was delighted, from 
the hope I had of properly confessing my sins, a 
thing which I was not allowed to do ; for, during 
the twenty months I remained there, I had never 
succeeded in making a good and entire accusation 
of my faxdts. David would not allow us to ac- 
cuse ourselves of the immoralities introduced 
there, telling us they were not transgressions. It 
was in vain I asked the mistress of the novices for 
a priest ; she replied in the same terms, and was 
one of the adepts in that school." 

In speaking of that abominable priest named 
David, she says: "It was not with him that I 
most offended God; for nothing at all criminal 
ever passed between him and me, and the only 
liberties he took consisted in indecent famili- 

"After David's death, I remained at the turning- 
box for at least nine months more, and Picard was 
appointed confessor and director of the house in 
his stead. On Easter-day, I presented myself 
before him that he might hear my confession, 
delighted with the liberty I had of telling him 
everything that had passed, and of revealing to 
him the recesses of my conscience ; but I fell, as 
the saying is, ^ out of the frying-pan into the fire.' 
As soon as I appeared before him, and began to 
declare my faults, he would not listen to me ; he 


would speak on any other subject, and told me 
that all I was confessing was not offending God- 
He testified the most violent affection, and en- 
treated me to return it : he then tried to embrace 
me. All the confessions I made to him afterwards 
were like the former, and were still more sacrile- 
gious and damnable ; for they consisted of warm 
expressions and illicit privacy. Good God ! what 
an abuse of sacrament, and even if I had not com- 
mitted any other sin than that, how much should 
I deserve to be chastised in this world and in the 
other ! 

** That wretch persisted in persecuting me, and 
his impudence was so great that during an ill- 
ness, from which I thought I should have died, he 
did not discontinue his improper behaviour, though 
I was almost senseless, and more dead than alive. 
This shows to what one may be led by a blind and 
unbridled passion." 

The intercourse which Picard had with Bavent 
having been made known in the town of Louviers, 
and Picard fearing she might be soon a mother, 
besides the greater facility of concealing his crime 
in that case, were the reasons which induced the 
confessor to get her back to the convent. Thus 
it was she ceased to be touriere (or keeper of the 
turning box). " So there I was," she continues, 
*^ for the second time, nun in the same convent. 


where I found tlie same practices, related else- 
where, even more firmly e8ta})lished ; for the mieh 
tress of the novices passionately delighted in them; 
and I had scarcely returned when they obliged me 
to follow them I am very sure that I re- 
turned to the house to my great misfortune, and 
that my excessive affection for Saint Francis had 
been injurious to me. I ought to have remem- 
bered what I had seen there, and to have chosen 
some ordinary livelihood in the world. Few per- 
sons will excuse me, and I know not whether our 
Lord himself will deign to excuse me, since that 
return has been the cause of my ruin, and I find 
myself very criminal in his presence." 

This Picard had imagined different practices of 
witchcraft to lead the nims to his purpose, and 
used to make them believe in the superstitions (rf 
magic : he introduced them, with all kinds of cere- 
monies and illusions, into a place where they fan- 
cied they were at the infernal mbbat ** The place 
where this sabbat was held," says Bavent, " is im- 
known to me ; I know not whether I was tak^n 

away far or not from the monastery The 

assembly there was not numerous: I perceived 
only priests and nuns, very seldom any lay per- 
sons." We may judge to what point they had fias- 
cinated the mind of this ^1, and what was llie 
deceit of these priests, &om reading the following 


passages : " All the actions I saw performed at the 
eabbat are infamous ; I cannot think of them with* 
out shuddering. .... I must confess that if the 
saintly fiiars of God commit extraordinary actions, 
the ciu*sed £riars of the devil are not to be out- 
done by them. Certainly, such actions deserve 
rather to be forgotten than to be related. But, 
as I am here making my general confession, I 
ought not to be silent upon one of their most 
enormous crimes.'* 

It would be too long to relate the effect that 
Picard had produced by his practices and impos- 
tures upon the mind of the credulous Bavent. He 
had caused her to make a covenant with the devil, 
and had persuaded her to give him her soul and 
body. "My crime," says she on this subject, "is the 
more enormous, that it has been repeated several 
times ; and though it is the pure truth that it was 
Picard who pressed and urged me to do all those 
things, and dictated them to me word by word, 
nevertheless I ought not to excuse myself on that 
accoimt, nor diminish in that way the gravity of 
my crime. I believe, nevertheless, that the wretch 
had bewitched me, for, whilst writing them, I 
know not how I was, and I scarcely knew myself." 

In these nocturnal meetings called the sabbat, 
she represents Jesus Christ and the Holy Virgin 
as punishing the sacrilege and crimes that were 
committed there. "Lastly," says she, "Boul^, 


Picard's vicar, once had my company in that place, 
by the order and conunand of Picard, who said it 
was necessary that it should be sd.** 

We find throughout an honest pious heart in thia 
girl, even amid the horrible immorality, superstition, 
and sacrilege into which she had been led by her 
credulity and confidence in abominable directors 
^^Can any one read, without astonishment," she 
exclaims, " all I have stated here ? O Lord ! how 
keenly I feel the need of thy great mercy to ob- 
tain pardon for such grievous sins. O Lord 1 thy 
great mercy is absolutely necessary to me; for 
even though I did not always participate in the 
extraordinarily impious and wicked doings I have 
just related, I was present at them all, and have 
so far shared in them as I have stated ; then have 
compassion on me." 

The nims, who were afraid lest Bavent should 
reveal the iniquities that were practised in their 
convent, arid in which they participated, refused 
to give her any other confessor than the one they 
themselves employed, and who maintained than 
in a state of depravity : these were principally the 
first two superiors, with the mistress of the novices: 
not only did they subject her to every species of 
vexation, but they accused her on the trial of 
having introduced into the convent everything 
that was contrary to religion and morality. **I 
was," says she, " aware of all that was going on in 


the establishment^ and I abhorred those nuns who 

had led me into infernal practices. . • . . K the 

court could take the trouble to examine everything 

diligently, and God would bless the enterprise, 

strange mysteries would be discovered. But let 

it do as it thinks proper." 

The Bishop of Evreux repaired to her convent, 
and she ocmfessed her sins to him : in consequence 
of the scandalous reports circulated against her, 
*^he ordered her to be imveiled and divested of 
her religious dress, without any other examination 
or proof. He commanded the nuns to visit her 
and cut off her hair: which they were very will- 
ing to do." 

She afterwards complains of the ill-treatment 
to which they subjected her. " I can never call 
to mind the miserable treatment I received, with- 
out being sensible of it stiU. How wretched it is 
to say that they refused me even a bit of linen to 
put to my ulcerated breast, which caused me in- 
sufferable pain, and that I heard with my own 
ears: ^JLet the wretch die if she wilir I confess it 
calls forth tears from my eyes and sigh^ from my 
heart. ••.... But can I complain, as if they had done 
wrong, when they refused these little comforts?" 
Not only were they not contented with making 
this imfortunate creature suffer such cruel treat- 
ment, which she supported with so much courage 
and resignation, but she was a victim of the in- 


human treatment of a bishop^ whom, however, she 
commends^ yet who, after having been her con- 
fessor for fifteen months, ^^ pronounced against 
me,** so she tells us, " upon the calumnious testi- 
mony of a nun, a sentence by which he condemned 
me to remain a prisoner all my life, to fast three 
days in the week on bread and water, and this 
upon the simple deposition, of a girl who spoke at 
one time like a saint, at another like a demoniac 
His sentence was too slight, with respect to my 
previous faults, but too hasty, considering the 
deeds for which he gave it ; since, by the grace of 
God, I believe I am quite innocent of them, and 
in God's truth I think I have never caused* any 
harm to the establishment." 

Poor Bavent was put in prison, first for four 
days in a subterraneous dungeon, in consequence 
of the denunciation of the same nun to the chief 
almoner. This man had been given to her as her 
confessor, though he had proved himself to be her 
enemy. After having confessed her and adminis- 
tered the communion, he asked her denunciator 
what Bavent had done with the consecrated wafer ? 
She replied " that I had sent it, by devils, to the 
establishment of Louviers, to strengthen them all 
in their demoniacal possessions. He must have 
known that this could not be, since he had passed 
more than three-quarters of an hour with me, 
when he had given me the holy wafer. Neverthe- 


less, he beKeved her, and the order was given to 
put me in the dungeon under ground, which is a 
horrible place." 

**It was in that same month," continues this 
wretched victim, ^^ that, on being delivered from 
the dimgeon, I gave myself, in my despair, three 
stabs with a knife — one in my arm to open the 
arteries, one in the throat to cut my windpipe, 
and another in my beUy, where I held it for 
four hours buried up to the handle, moving it 
about from time to time to dispatch myself the 
more speedily. I lost much blood, and became 
extremely weak. The wound in my body alone 
festered, but all I put to it was a little cold water, 
having nothing else. In vain did I ask for a con- 
fessor; they would not grant me one. 

" My despair continued for three days after this 
guilty action ; I then attempted another not less 
so. I took some glass, groimd it, and swallowed 
it by spoonfuls, using nothing else for several 
days, in order to hasten my deatL That caused 
me to vomit much blood, and often to swoon. 

" It was believed that the devil had brought me 
the knife and given me the glass, because the girls 
had said so when questioned upon this matter; 
but they are mistaken, and their devils are not 
very learned, or speak falsely. I had found the 
knife in the dungeon, when feeling about, for I 
could not see; and, to take the rust o^ I had 


rubbed it for some time. Ail this took place in 
the dungeon of the cellar, which is over the vent- 
hole of the lower dungeon. When I lay there, I 
often asked of God — ^For what^ O Lardy do you re' 
serve your miserable Magdalen^ since shecarmot diet 
But very humbly did I return Him thanks, how- 
ever, for having preserved me, whatever might 
happen to me ; for had I died in that state, I was 
lost for ever, and there was no hope of salvation 
for me . . . When human aid had failed me, I 
found that of God : the less I deserved it, the more 
I ought to admire His bounty which showers down 
mercies and favours upon the just and the unjust, 
and whose charity beams like the rays of the 
sun upon the good and the wicked. Let my 
soul ever bless His most holy name, and all that 
is within me eternally praise His incomparable 

^^ I am going to relate one for which I owe him 
vast obligations, though I did not make a good use 
of it, any more than of the previous ones. No 
one could ever imagine aU I endured during my 
imprisonment at Evreux, which lasted five years, 
three and a half of which I passed in the dungeons, 
either in the cellar or above. There I fasted my 
three appointed days on bread and water, without 
mercy ; and I was badly enough fed on the other 
days. I was taken out three or four times more 
dead than alive, and, at times of despair, I went 


five times seven days without eating or drinking. 
They ordered me to be visited by divers physicians 
and suigeonS) four times at least, having inflicted on 
me rather violent torments ; and my head, being 
pricked about and covered with blood, swelled like 
a bushel. For a very long period, nobody came 
near me or spoke to me ; and M. de Longchamp 
(the confessor they had given her, and who had 
declared against her) even kept, by order of M. 
d'Evreux, the key of my dimgeon, fearing lest the 
turnkeys should give me a little air. The filthy 
state and the odour of my dungeon were insup- 
portable. All I say is true, and I cannot say all. 
But what afflicted me still more, was my suffering 
conscience, which they did not attempt to relieve ; 
for I asked for a confessor a himdred times, but 
could obtain no other than the penitentiary, whom 
I could not endure." 

What a heart-breaking piteous spectacle to see 
a poor girl, whose soul was thoroughly inclined to 
virtue and piety, abandoned by the whole world, 
and become the victim of the hatred, fanaticism, 
and cruelty of priests, feeling no pity for sufferings 
of which they were the authors, and furiously 
pursuing her by iniquitous means ! It is evident 
that, after having sequestrated her from every 
human being, and subjected her to the treatment 
ot which she has spoken, their intention was to 


let her perish, finding it impossible to destroy her 
by judicial means. 

It was amid such sufferings that this girl found 
some consolation from a virtuous priest who could 
feel for misfortune, and who succeeded, though 
not without difficulty, in inspiring her with some 
confidence, and in receiving the confession which 
she had long desired to make to a man worthy of 
her esteem. This good priest gave her all the 
consolation in his power, and even managed to 
send her food which they had refused her. 

Exposed to sufferings and a trial that seemed 
endless, Bavent was transported from Evreux to 
Kouen, and confined in the prisons of the arch- 
bishop's palace, without even a morsel of bread 
being given her for food ..." God did not fail to 
inspire some persons of rank to send me a little 
sustenance." In this town she experienced that 
consolation which had been so often denied her; 
this is what she states in the following words : " I 
say so with a ftdl heart; I have praised Grod a 
hundred times, in my prison at Rouen, for His 
mercy towards the miserable Magdalen, in letting 
her come to this city, and in affording her con- 
science the persons who direct it. If I had had 
them in the monastery, I should not be what I 
now am; and if they had conducted me in like 
manner, I should have derived a greater benefit 


from my torments^ and have avoided many of- 

Bavent, being convinced she would be con- 
demned^ in consequence of the depositions made 
against her by the nuns^ and other persons, at the 
instigation of a few fanatical priests, was pre- 
paring for death, when she was conducted to the 
conciergeriey and underwent two examinations be- 
fore the court of Bouen. After having made, 
with the aid of her confessor, the confession of 
which we have given an extract, she concludes 
thus : *^ Notwithstanding the multitude and enor- 
mity of my sins, I would confess them very 
:^ frankly with the accusation, if they were true: 
I for, indeed, I have no intention of thinking to 
• save my life, but only my soul) I have already 

I several times seen, in anticipation, my death and 

I execution, and I have endeavoured to bring my- 
self to a state in which I wish to be, in order to go 
to God in the way it will please Him to ordain. 
My miserable life abounds sufficiently with crimes, 
without adding those which they have imputed to 
' me. God did not allow me to fall into them ; and 
as I attribute to His grace the remission of sins 
committed, so ought I also to attribute to Him my 
preservation from others which I have not com- 
mitted. If it be His will that those girls be be- 
lieved^ I heartily accept it, in order to sacrifice to 
Him my reputation and my life." 

VOL. U. E 


This is the way in which Magdalen Bavent 
denies^ in her confession, the inculpation of magic 
laid to her charge at the instigation of the priests 
who strove thus to justify themselves for the 
crimes of which they were guilty, and to save 
the honour of their ministry in confession : to do 
so, it was necessary to cast upon the poor ^1, 
whom they had seduced and strangely led astray, 
those irregularities, diabolical practices, and crimes 
of which they were both the cause and the instru- 
ments. Whenever she was summoned to appear, 
says she, '^it was to be present at exorcisms and 
to hear whatever the girls related against me, in 
presence of everybody: God only knows what I 
suffered in heart and mind, when I beheld myself 
the opprobrium of men and the contempt of the 
people, passing for the most detestable witch that 
ever lived. I declare before God, that I do not 
believe I was ever either a magician or a witch : 
it is true I have been to the sabbat, but I was 
transported there, and never had any acquaint- 
ance or communication with those infernal trans- 

This poor girl was so pestered by all who ap- 
proached her, whether male or female, that she 
Avas made to declare things of which she was 
evidently not guilty, and which she afterwards 
retracted. They carried their perfidy and malice 
towards her so far as to insert, in the proces* 


mhaux of her examination^ avowals she had never 
made. Thus we find, in an interrogatory men- 
tioned in the work of which we have given the 
tide, and written by a lieutenant criminel named 
Boutier, the following declaration: "That Ba- 
vent, when living with a sempstress, with whom 
she boarded for three years, was several times 
seduced by a magician, who carried her away to 
the sahbat with three of her companions whom he 
had also debauched. There he had celebrated 
mass in foul linen belonging to him. Magdalen 
had said that she had brought away from the 
sabbat the filthy shirt which the magician had 
used, that she had put it on, and then had felt 
herself urged towards immorality, till, at the 
order of a prudent confessor, she had laid aside 
this abominable garment. That Bavent had said, 
scarcely a week passed, during the space of eight 
months, without her being taken by this magician 
to the sabbaty where, on one occasion, he married 
her to one of the principal devils of hell, named 
Dagon, who appeared in the shape of a young 
man and gave her a ring.... That, for her part, she 
remembered having made nine or ten spells which 
she composed with sacred wafers, mixed with 
toads, the hair of a he-goat, which magicians and 
sorcerers adore in the sabbat, and with other filthy 
and disgusting things. She had also been made 
to say, " that she was present at a sabbat wherein 

£ 2 


mothers^ with one consent^ slaughtered their own 
children, whom the company cut into pieces ; that 
she had participated in those murdeni with Picard, 
and had availed herself of them to make her 
spells." We have said enough for the information 
of the reader, and will spine him several other 
no less* revolting accusations, contained in the 
twenty-four counts of which this indictment is 

But what are we to think, when such atrocious, 
such absurd facts, are, in an official paper, falsely 
attributed to a poor, friendless, helpless girl, but 
that they wanted, by perfidious combinations, to 
cause the unfortimate creature to be considered as 
the cause of irregularities and crimes due entirely 
to the wickedness of a few priests, and to that 
blind boundless obedience prescribed in those pri- 
sons, designated monasteries, wherein superiors and 
directors are able to command anything in the 
name of God? 

Magdalen Bavent, sent from prison to prison, 
and from one tribunal to another, had to undergo, 
before the parliament of Rouen, new examinations 
which are of the same character as the forgoing 
facts. We shall, therefore, merely observe that they 
abound throughout in magic, witchcraft, covenants 
with the devil, intercourse with demons, attend- 
ance at the sabbaty adoration of a he-goat, profana- 
tion of the sacred wafer, with which spells are 


composed, men and women slaughtered at the 
sabbatSf in which acts Magdalen performs a part ; 
lastly, miracles, in which appear Jesus Christ and 
the holy "Virgin, to avenge the sacrilege committed 
at the sabbat^ &c. 

The provincial of the Capuchin friars, of whom 
we have spoken, relates, in the following manner, 
the exorcisms which the Bishop of Evreux prac- 
ticed upon the demoniacal nuns. His lordship 
d'Evreux gradually prepared for making exor- 
cisms, and the demons immediately cried out, 
with one voice, that Magdalen Bavent was the 
cause of their being sent into that monastery; that 
she was a magician; and they alleged several 
things against her. Therefore she was introduced 
into the chapel of the sufferers, where three of 
those devils, namely, Seviathan, Encitif, and 
Dagon, though attacking her the moment she 
entered, yet as soon as she had crossed the thres- 
hold, gave her a grand reception, called her their 
darling Magdalen, and, after a thousand devilish 
caresses, betrayed, accused, and published her as 
one of the most famous witches of the sahhaty^ &c. 
This stupid Capuchin was leagued with certain 
priests and bishops, who, for the honour of the 
clergy and the sanctity of confession, wanted to 
present to the public, as innocent, men who had 
made such an infamous abuse of their ministry. It 
was to support this saintly cause, in which he had 


taken some share, that this cheat published his 
work, which is but a tissue of fables, absurdities, 
and calumny against Bavent. Therein, he devotes 
one chapter to prove that the nuns of Louviers 
were possessed of devils. He brings forward first, 
as a proof, the continual^ horrible^ and unrighteous 
blasphemies uttered by those poor girls: then, the 
very astonishing description they give of the sab^ 
baty the he-goat, &c. ; the utter aversion they feeL 
at certjun moments for confession and communion, 
and the blasphemy they vent against those sacra— 
ments, whereas they adore God fervently a mo- 
ment afterwards. Lastly, a proof — which it is not 
surprising to find in the writings of a monk, and 
which, in his opinion, is undeniable — ^is, that these 
facts have been attested by His Lordship, the 
Bishop of Evreux, assisted in this matter by per- 
sons of considerable capacity, learning, judgment, 
and probity, together with His Grace the Arch- 
bishop of Toulouse, and eminent doctors, deputed 
and chosen by the queen, besides a very great 
number of dignified, conscientious, and prudent 
persons, who have judged, pronounced, and de- 
clared the said possession to be true, real, and 
corporeal, and this, after full inquiry, perfect ac- 
quaintance, mature consideration, and a serious 
examination of everything." 

Such are the facts and arguments brought for- 
ward, in a barbarous style, by this provincial of 


the Capuchin fnars, in order to prove the demo- 
macal possession of fifty-two nuns, the tools of 
their abominable confessors. We cannot be sur- 
prised that this man has, for the purpose of sup- 
porting the cause of his religion, devoted a chapter 
in his work *^ to resolve affirmatively," as he him- 
self says, ^Hhat magic deserves to be punished with 
death, and that the order of divine justice obliges 
judges to execute witches and sorcerers." 




** This law-suit," says the author of the Cames 
CeCebres* in the account he gives of it, **is one of 
the most celebrated that ever occupied the tribu- 
nals of the kingdom : all Europe resounded with 
the names of Girard and La Cadi^re ; all Europe 
read the writings published on both sides ; every- 
body awaited the sentence with impatience; it 
astonished everybody, and nobody was satisfied." 

This celebrity did not arise from the nature of 
the affair itself: a director accused of having made 
use of his ascendancy over the mind of a beautiftil 
young penitent, in order to seduce her, is not un- 

* Causes Cel^bres et Interessantes, par Richer, t. ii. 


This sd^Btxr, then^ is indebted for its celebrity 
solely to the position of the accused ; to the part 
wiichwas taken in it by the Company of Jesus; to 
the manoeuvres they used in order to save the 
honour of one of their members, and to the im- 
prudence they committed in compromising them- 
selves on this occasion. They followed too strictly 
their secret policy, which does not allow them to 
leave any Jesuit in trouble, whatever be the nature 
of the accusation brought against him. Thereby, 
every member of the society was excited to under- 
take anything for the interest or glory of the 
body, certain of never being outwardly disavowed, 
nay, assured of being supported by the most ex- 
tensive and astonishing influence that has ever 
been known. But, at the same time, the crime of 
one became the crime of all; and, during the 
thirty-two years which elapsed between the con- 
clusion of this business and the dissolution of the 
society, the name of Girard, addressed to a Jesuit, 
was an insult. 

By reading the analysis of the trial, which we 
are about to give, one may learn what kind of 
people the Jesuits are, and to what a pitch they 
can carry immorality, cunning, and hypocrisy. 
Scouted from the Christian world, rejected by our 
laws, but supported and encouraged by the court 
of Rome, bjr the UltramontarveSy and by the ene- 
mies of civil and religious liberty, they are spring- 

E 3 


ing up among us at the present day, ever the 
same, ever enterprismg, audacious, greedy of 
domination, and skilful in making use of confession 
to rule over the minds of men, to corrupt others, 
and enrich themselves. Have they not seduced 
the French clergy into their Macchiavellian system 
of encroachment ? Have not a great many bishops 
publicly declared that they shared the principles of 
Jesuitism? — ^which ought not to surprise us, since 
they profess those of Ultramontanism. 

For our own part, granting to sincere and vir- 
tuous priests the esteem and respect which are 
due to them, we think it is important, for the good 
of all, to unmask iniquities which, from their 
nature, can be prevented only by publicity. We 
shall, therefore, speak out frankly, in order that 
the reader may form an exact idea of the entire 
heinousness of the criminal acts to which wicked 
priests may addict themselves to gratify their 
passions and make a sacrilegious abuse of the in- 
nocence, piety, credulity, inexperience, and bound- 
less confidence, with which women approach the 
tribunal of confession, A trial, the official details 
of which *are so various and complicated that it 
could be comprised only in a thick volume, has 
obliged us, in the analysis which we here present, 
to swell this chapter to a greater extent than we 
could have wished. 

But, before entering into these details, it is pro- 


per to giye a short notice of the life and character 
of Father Girard^ and of his victim La Cadiere. 

Nothing is known about the birth^ family^ and 
early youth of father Girard, except that he was a 
native of Dole, in Franche-Comt^. He was ex- 
ceedingly ugly, and yet very much in vogue among 
sanctified women. Being a shrewd hypocrite, he 
acquired a great reputation as a preacher and direc- 
tor of consciences, as well by his adroit manners as 
by the easiness of his moral precepts for his fair 
penitents. Thus it was that he had managed to 
conciliate their attachment, sway their minds, and 
subject them passively to whatever he required of 
them. The address with which he made a profes- 
sion of piety contributed not a little to gain him 
the esteem and consideration of the public, even so 
far as to be looked upon as a saint. In this man- 
ner he had risen to be rector of the royal seminary 
of the navy at Toulon. 

Marie-Catherine Cadiere was bom at Toulon in 
the year 1709, of a father who left four children. 
They were entrusted to the care of an extremely 
devout mother ; one of them continued his father's 
trade, the second turned friar, and the third em- 
braced the ecclesiastical profession. Yoimg La 
Cadiere was handsome, and her figure well pro- 
portioned : she had a fair complexion, a fine neck, 
black hair, dark eyes, and an animated expressive 
countenance. She was not wanting in intelli- 


gence^ though her education had been neglected; 
so much so that, at the age of one-and-twenty, she 
could hardly sign her name, and she did not know 
how to write till a year later: Her character in- 
clined her to seek for praise, and even to pass for 
a saint. Propelled into these ideas by the inte- 
rested suggestions of her director, who was also 
striving to get this reputation, she showed much 
piety from her youth, and an ardent desire of at- 
taining a high degree of Christian perfection. 
Such is the testimony given of her by every per- 
son who happened to be acquainted with her. 

Her ardent mind was beginning to be still fiir- 
ther exalted by the perusal of the ascetic books 
which had been prescribed for her use by her first 
confessors, when she fell imder the direction of 
Father Girard, who took advantage of those in- 
clinations to lead her into his perfidious designs. 
For this purpose he directed her into the path of 
quietismy* as an infallible means of success. By 
his conversation, and the practices he prescribed^ 
he managed to make her believe that she was inti- 
mately united to God, and that a soul in that state 
could not sin, even when the body abandoned itself 
to irregularities. He even went so far as to efiPect 

* This system is well explained in Michelet*8 Priests^ 
Women^ and Families. London, Longman, 184d. (See es- 
pecially ch. v., vi., vii.) — TransL 


bk infamous design by persuading her that she 
was in ecstacj, and that she committed no sin, since 
her soul, entirely united to God, could do no harm. 
He had persuaded her moreover that, in her pre- 
sent state of perfection, she was not bound to pray, 
or to ftdfil any other duties prescribed by the 
Christian religion; Accordingly, she replied to an 
observation addressed to her upon certain points of 
this doctrine : " When one is well with God, there 
is nothing to be feared, and the same when a 
director commands anything." Girard, in order to 
remove every scruple from the mind of his peni- 
tent, told her she ought to look upon him as a god, 
and, consequently, to submit to whatever he re- 
quired of her. She said, in one of her declarations, 
that ibis Jesuit had so fascinated her mind that she 
mistook the promptings of nature for ecstacies and 
the harbingers of celestial pleasures. 

Moreover, this girl was not the only one enticed 
to evil by such abominable suggestions, as the 
penitents themselves declared ; confessing likewise 
that one of them had become enciente by him. 

We will not speak of the impudence of this 
Father Girard, who had succeeded in persuading 
the public and La Cadi^re herself that she per- 
formed miracles. Accordingly, pious souls would 
exclaim : " Who would not be converted at wit- 
nessing such a spectacle ! " The Jesuits also spread 
abroad these marvels, which, of course, made their 


order illustrious. It appears that Girard had 
another Jesuit, named Grignet, for an aocomplicey 
who acted in concert with him to establish the 
sanctity of La CadiSre. This hypocrite wrote to 
the poor girl whose reason they were attempting 
to pervert : " I hope you will always impart to 
me the revelations which God will ^je you, for 
my amendment ; he inspires me with a diild-like 
docility to perform whatever you may tell me £rom 
Him, and with gratitude for the grace He has 
given me through you." This young girl, giddy 
with the renown for sanctity that Father Girard 
had gained for her, and the worship she received 
from the most important persons in consequence 
of that reputation, believed herself truly mtroetf- 
lated. Her very companions contributed to the 
same illusion: they boldly declared there were 
many saints in paradise who had not wrought so 
many miracles as herself. This has been deposed 
to by several witnesses. Her mind was in such a 
state of frenzy on this point, that she composed a 
long memorial, in which she gives an account of 
the miracles she had performed and the visions she 
had had during Lent, in the year 1730. The 
reader will excuse us from recording these reveries. 
In short. La Cadidre swore in court that this 
Jesuit, after sacrificing her to his licentiousness;, 
wanted to sacrifice her to his ambition, to secure 
a reputation for making saints. 


Father GIrard directed La Cadi^re's conscience 
for two years and a half. The first year was em- 
ployed in studying her character and mental dis- 
position^ in gaining information from certain de- 
votees with whom she was intimate, and whose 
confessor he was, and in preparing her by his con- 
versations. He allowed her to indulge in amuse- 
ments and pleasures from which she had till then 
abstained. He made her take the communion 
every day, but in different churches, in order that 
the j^ublic might not be shocked at su^ excessive 
devotion, which formed a strange contrast with 
her dissipation ; and he made her read books cal- 
culated to excite her imagination and fill her with 
ecstacy, visions, and revelations. Every day he 
grew more intimate and familiar with her; and 
would say that God required something more than 
what she had hitherto done. She put such blind 
confidence in him, that one day, on his telling her 
he had had a vision in which he was inspired to 
make a covenant with the demon to drag a soul 
out of purgatory, she made that covenant, in spite 
of her repugnance, being — so to speak — ^forced to it 
by her confessor. When confronted with Father 
Girard concerning this fact, she declared that she 
gelded and abandoned herself up to everything he 
required her to do, to say, or to suffer, and that, 
fix>m that moment, she experienced very extraor- 
dinary sensations, convulsive symptoms, and dis- 


gusting yisions, of which she complained to 

It was owing to the confidence with which Father 
Girard had inspired La Cadi^re, and to the opinion 
she entertained of his sanctity, that this unfiortu- 
nate girl, who sought in the tribunal of confession 
coimsels only whereby she might attain perfection^ 
found those horrible maxims which led her into 
the greatest irregularities. This is what she was 
herself aware of, when too late, as she says in her 
justificatioif^ " I found, unfortimately, that "^hen 
libertinism is invested with the outward forms jof 
piety, and we are urged towards impurity by 
the principles of religion, that fund of corrmption, 
which we inherit from Adam, but too soon re- 
Idndles in the mind, and abandons us even to the 
most shameful passions, without even scruple or 
remorse; An outward show of piety caused me to 
consider as lawful, or indifferent, things which, oc- 
curring under any other shape, would not have 
failed to shock me." 

A proof of the excessive influence which this 
cunning cheat had acquired over the mind of his 
penitent, is her own expression to the confessor 
whom she had received in place of Father Girard. 
This honest monk, who had begim to lead her back 
to virtue, and in whom she put confidence, having 
visited her at a moment when she was in great 
agitation, through the violence of her ecstacies and 
convulsions, she said to him, with reproaches, ** I 


Will return to that Father (Girard), I will have 
him in spite of God, in spite of the bishop, in spite 
of my relations, in spite of you !" 

We shall not record the other abominable acts of 
Father Girard towards this too simple and credu- 
lous girl, whom he had sacrificed to his vile and 
sacrilegious passion. The proofs are to be found in 
several official documents. The first are taken 
from the procts-verbal of the interrogatory put to 
La Cadi^re by order of the Archbishop of Toulon, 
who sent his official for that purpose. ^ . 

She afterwards relates that Father Uurard used ^ 
to embrace his other penitents, and lock himself 
up in their chambers. 

" He would order her to go, during Lent, to the 
church in the evening, when nobody was there, 
and would embrace and kiss her before he entered 
the confessional." 

When she was in the convent he would come 
and see her, in the parlour, open the little door of 
the grate with his knife, and kiss her ; after which 
he would behave with the greatest indecency. . . . 
When she asked him whether all that was a con- 
duct conformable to the spirit of God, he assured 
her it was. She afterwards concludes her narra- 
tive by saying she could "mention many other 
things about the reverend father which would never 
be ended, and which are still more serious." 

After these declarations made to ecclesiastical 
authority. La Cadidre, believing she had no longer 


any reason to spare her director, laid her complaint 
before the Lieutenant of Toulon. 

By means of measures taken to justify Father 
Girard and devolve all the guilt upon La Cadi^re, 
the Jesuits managed, doubtless by threats and ad- 
dress, to make her retract what she had said in her 
previous interrogatory. The Bishop of Toulon 
had indeed forbidden all the confessors to hear La 
Cadidre before she had given a formal retractation 
of her accusations against Father Girard. Having 
enjoyed aJ^le liberty after this retractation, she 
^availed herself of it to declare before the commis- 
sioners that they had made her drink salted wine 
whilst fasting, which had troubled her mind ; that 
she remained stedfast to her first declarations, 
and revoked all she might have said to the con- 

The trial had become extremely complicated 
and of long duration, either from the cunning 
manoeuvres of Father Qirard — ^from the interest 
which the Jesuits felt that their comrade should 
be exculpated — ^from the effects which the same 
motives produced upon the clergy — or, lastly, by 
means of the calumnious reports spread against 
La Cadidre by the devotees and penitents devoted 
to the confessor. Unfortunately, the judges hap- 
pened to be equally prejudiced or corrupt, so that 
Father Girard passed for innocent, in spite of the 
evidence of his guilt. 

La Cadi^re's mother, seeing her daughter over- 


whelmed by such powerftil enemies^ and destitute 
of every means of justification, addressed succes- 
sively four petitions — ^namely, to the Cardinal de 
Fleury, to the Chancellor, to the Keeper of the 
Seals, and the Secretary of State. We will here 
mention these complaints, which were but too well 
proved : — " Father Girard," says she, " Eector of 
the Jesuits of Toulouse, under pretence of leading 
this poor child to sublime perfection, has com- 
mitted the most horrible crimes upon her As 

soon as my daughter wished to clear up, with 
another confessor, the doubts she had ever en- 
tertained about her state and that of sanctity attri- 
buted to her, they immediately set her down as a 
loose woman. They have kept her a prisoner, with- 
out her, knowii^ by what authority, in a cellar of 
the Convent of Ursulines, in this town, to extort 
from her a disavowal of her accusation. They 
suborn witnesses against her, and silence her own. 
If my daughter has calumniated Father Girard, I 
myself will give her up to execution, which she 
would deserve; but if this friar, her confessor, has 
seduced her in a horrible maimer, he ought not to 
escape with impunity." 

This disconsolate mother complained on the fol- 
lowing points: — 1st, that the bishop and the Je- 
suits corrupted the witnesses, preventing some 
from appearing, and prescribing to others what 
they were to depose ; 2ndly, the dishonesty of the 


recorder of the officiality, who drew up in his own 
fashion the depositions of the witnesses; Srdly, the 
destitution of her daughter, devoid of all counsel^ 
even the procureuvy allowed her by the lieutenant 
du hailliage, refusing his ministry ; 4thly, the ill- 
treatment which her daughter experienced from 
the nuns among whom she was detained, and who 
insulted her in every way," &c. 

All these petitions were ineffectual and re- 
mained imanswered. La Cadi^re's mother then 
resolved to address a new petition to Cardinal de 
Fleury containing the following facts : " The se- 
ducer enjoys not only impimity, but even the out- 
ward appearance of innocence, which they strive 
to maintain for him, whereas my daughter is 
treated openly as if she were guilty and 
already condemned. Father Girard continues to 
perform all }iis sacerdotal functions : he has among 
the auditors 6f his sermons his lordship the bishop^ 
and the official, his judge; he is ever active, 
even in the ministry which he had used for the 
seduction of several persons, and of which he now 
avails himself to bribe our best witnesses. My 
daughter, on the contrary, has much trouble in 
getting permission to confess her sins ; she is con- 
fined in a monastery, the superior of which is the 
sister of a Jesuit, which is subject to the direc- 
tion of Father Girard himself and his fraternity, 
and which, of all the monasteries in the town, is 


the one most devoted to them. There, she Is de- 
prived of her liberty, being allowed to leave her 
chamber only to hear mass. She is reduced to a 
horrible solitude, having permission to see nobody 
from without but me alone, not even her brothers, 
nor to have any intercourse in the interior of the 
convent with any of the nuns. 1 say nothing of 
the bad impression which this proof of the influ- 
ence of that party and the menaces which its par- 
tisans add to it, make upon the witnesses ; for all 
the manoeuvres, all the oppression employed either 
by them or by the bishop, their protector, will 
never be able to weaken the procedure, composed 
till now of fifty witnesses, so far as to do away 
with the complete proof of the seduction, and the 

crimes of the seducer Be moved, my lord, by 

the tears of a mother who, in claiming your pro- 
tection, cannot believe she is importunate, since 
she demands only what is granted her by the or- 
dinary laws." 

This petition, like the former ones, remained 
unanswered. Every precaution was taken to 
turn the inquiry in favour of Father Girard 
and his fraternity. For this purpose, the proces- 
verbaux of the depositions were taken every 
evening to the Jesuits, in order to confer with the 
accused party and Father Sabatier about the wit- 
nesses they ought to produce on the morrow, to 
depose facts contradictory to those which had been 


brought forward by the witnesses of La Cadiere. 
When they had agreed about the persons to be 
heard, who were always either actual penitents of 
Fathers Girard and Sabatier, or people belonging 
to the Jesuits, the promoteur caused them to be 
summoned at his request. 

They refused to admit several other proofe of 
subornation: amo^g other things, it had been 
offered to be proved " that the Bishop of Toulon 
had written and sent by his secretary, letters to 
the nuns of St. Claire d'Ollioules, to recommend 
those who had been unfavourable to Father Giraid 
to turn their re-examination in his favour ; that 
he had threatened the touriere and other servants 
of the convent, who had accused the good father, 
to turn them away, and even to put them to the 

Father Girard, seeing that his conduct towards 
La Cadiere gained greater publicity every day, 
and foreseeing that it might become fatal to him, 
hastened to get back the letters he had written to 
his penitent. The latter restored them to him, 
not being aware that he took them back only to 
efface the proofs of the crimes of which he had 
been guilty towards her. We may even see the 
precaution he took in order that the letters he 
wrote to her might not fall into the hands of a 
third party. Indeed, in one of his letters addressed 
to the abbess of the convent of Toulon, where La 


Cadi^re then was, he made this request : " Let 
the young lady write to me without her letters 
being read, and my answers return to her without 
being seen." He even carried his precaution still 
farther; for he gave two letters to his messengers, 
one of which contained only spiritual counsel, to 
pass through the hands of the abbess in case she 
required it, and the other in which were the true 
sentiments of the director, to be delivered directly 
into the hands of his penitent. When La Cadiere 
asked him before the tribunal to produce the let- 
ters she had written to him, he refused, under 
pretence that they were composed of secrets of con- 
science. But after insisting several times, teUing 
him that she permitted them to be made public, 
he replied that he had not those letters at hand ; 
and being questioned still more closely, he said he 
had burned them^ But this wretch carried his 
knavery still further : he added to the proceedings a 
certain number of letters, both of those he had writ- 
ten to La Cadiere during her residence in the con- 
vent of Ollioules, which he had had plenty of time 
to alter, as of those he had received, and in which 
he had been audacious enough to blot out several 
words and dates, and to remove the second leaves. 
It was difficult for Father Girard, oppressed by 
80 much weighty proof and testimony, not to fall 
into a few contradictions, notwithstanding his 
cunning and presence of mind. This is stated in 


the notes of the judges of the parliament of Pro- 
vence, addressed to the Chancellor: — "We saw 
him agitated hy conflicting emotions : at one time 
dejected even to weeping, when he had nothing to 
answer ; at another, affecting an assurance ill- 
becoming his situation. Into what contradictions 
did he not fall! We remarked that he contrar 
dieted himself as often as five times upon the same 

This prosecution, of which it would be too long 
to relate the particuiars, was disgraced by revolting 
partiality and irregularity, both in the name of 
the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and in that of the 
civil procedure, through the intrigues and peffidy 
of the Jesuits and theirnumerous partisans; for 
it had been resolved to bring this tissue of iniqui- 
ties to an end by the death of La Cadiere, and 
thus justify the innocence and sanctity of Father 
Girard. Accordingly, the definitive conclusion of 
the parquet^ given on the 11th of September, 1731, 
was to the effect that "Father Girard be dis- 
charged upon every count in the indictment ; that 
La Cadifere be declared attainted of false and ca- 
lumnious accusations, of having made an abuse of 
reli^on and profaned its mysteries, and of having 
falsely counterfeited the saint and afterwards the 
possessed. For atonement of which she shall be 
given up to the hands of the executioner, in order 
to make amende honorable before the door of the 


metropolitan church, and thence led to the Place 
des PrScheurSy to be hanged and strangled, and pre- 
viously to be put to the ordinary and extraor- 
dinary torture, in order to extort ifrom her more 
ample truth about the accomplices of her 

As it was supposed that her fate was definitively 
decided, the Capuchins, friends of the Jesuits, 
presented themselves before her in order to con- 
fess her. She told them that Father Girard had 
greater need of their assistance, and that it would 
not he among the Capuchins that she should choose. 
Accordingly she demanded another confessor. 

The court at length pronounced its final sen- 
tence upon the fate of the accused parties. In the 
cause of Father Girard one half of the voices was 
for his being condemned to the stake, and the 
other half for his being discharged. In this man- 
ner he was dismissed, and got off with impunity : 
as a magistrate then said, ^* He left the stage half 
pure and half humt^^ 

As to the girl La Cadi^re, the conclusions of 
the parquety which were for her being hanged, 
were rejected, and she was sent back to her mother 
to be taken care of. 

On leaving the prison, she was welcomed with 
demonstrations of the most earnest and universal 
joy. She retired to the house of her attorney, 
where she received visits from all the most dis- 



tinguished persons in the town^ and, from tiine to 
time, she was obliged to show herself at the 
window to the people, who called for her with 
loud cries. On the morrow, she went to thank 
the judges: everybody wished to have her at his 
table ; and arrangements had been made that she 
might go successively into all the principal houses 
of Aix. But the hatred and influence of the 
Jesuitical party pursued her with the same 
fury. The commandant and the lieutenant of th^ 
province gave her orders to leave the town th^ 
same day. She then judged what she had to feair" 
from the boundless influence and malignity of herr" 
enemies. She felt sure that they would not dar^^ 
to kidnap her in a town where she was under th^ 
protection of all the inhabitants ; but that, as sooi^ 
as she was far away from them, they would de — 
prive her of her liberty, to hand her over, per — 
haps, to the most cruel persecutions. To prevent 
this danger — so it is said — she suddenly disap- 
peared, without any person having ever been able 
to find out what had become of her. 

What are we to think of the sudden disappear- 
ance of a girl who had attracted so lively an in- 
terest and so much enthusiasm, not only from all 
the inhabitants of a city, but, we may say, of all 
France ? They dreaded the effect she might have 
still produced had she continued to live in the 
world. Must we not think, from the furious 


eagerness with which they strove to bring her to 
the scaffold^ that they made away with her in 
some way or other^ in order that so serious a sub- 
ject of hatred against the Jesuits might cease to 
exifit ? We would not accuse the man of rashness 
ivho might think that people who have committed 
so many crimes, and have not hesitated to plunge 
their daggers in our kings, may likewise have 
sacrificed this new victim. 

As to Father Girard, he received fronl the pub- 
lic a reception very different from the one given 
"to La Cadi^re. Though, in execution of the sen- 
"tence, he ought naturally to have been conducted 
"to the prisons of the oflSciality, he was sent back 
-to the house of the Jesuits, in a sedan-chair, amid 
the execration and insults of the people, who 
called him a sorcerer and a sacrilegious wretch. 
He proved that he completely deserved the latter 
denomination, for he had scarcely arrived at his 
convent when he set about performing mass. But 
the Archbishop of Aix, fearing lest his presence 
in the town might occasion some riot, caused him 
to depart secretly on the morrow. He repaired 
to Lyons, where, still protected by the clergy, 
he received a letter from the Bishop of Viviers, 
of which it is proper to make known a few pas- 
sages. Thus speaks this prelate : " You have not 
forgotten, reverend father, my former sentiments 
of esteem, respect, and reverence for you.... I 
F 2 


doubt not, my reverend father, that you have 
answered the views of God, ever salutary, though 
severe In appearance.... What consolation would 
it be to me to be able to embrace you here, and 
to give you proofs of my esteem and confidence 1 
Could you not come and pass a few days with me, 
and devote your talents and labours to the neces- 
sities of my diocese?.. Nothing would be more 
agreeable to me than to find thereby an oppor- 
tunity of showing publicly that my sentiments 
towards you are above the popular fenaticism,'* &c. 

The letter proves that the fanaticism of the 
bishop exceeded that of which, under the name of 
popular, even the higher classes are accused. Here 
we may well say : Vox populi, vox Dei ; whereas 
the conduct of several members of the clergy was 
a diabolical transaction, for the very and sole pur- 
pose of maintaining the honour of the priesthood 
and that of confession. 

In short. Father Girard died at Dole, in 1733, 
in the ordour of sanctity, according to two let- 
ters extensively published abroad by the Com- 
pany of Jesus, as we may judge from the follow- 
ing passages: "His body, rather ugly in his 
life-time, was so handsome after his death, that 

we were quite surprised People shouted on 

seeing his body It was necessary to hide it 

from the people, who rushed forward in crowds 
to touch it with their prayer-books, chaplets, &C. 


Since his burial^ many persons have come to begin 
novcTuu God seems disposed to glorify his ser- 
vant He distinguished himself especially by 

his preaching, his direction of consciences, and his 

generally acknowledged piety He renewed his 

vows before receiving the holy viaticmn, and he 
declared that, by the grace of God, he had fallen 
into none of the dreadful vices of which he had 

been accused on the trial He prayed for his 

enemies, and shortly after quietly expired : Thtis 
dies the righteous in Ms righteoiLsness.'^ 

What are we to think of these Jesuitical impos- 
tures, when the guilt of their confrere is proved 
by such numerous unobjectionable testimonies, and 
when the judges of the parliament of Provence 
wrote as follows to the Chancellor ? " Convinced 
by the impression resulting from the whole of this 
criminal case, we believed that death alone could 
expiate so many crimes, and fire purify so many 
horrors, and that WQ were answerable for a signal 
example, both to religion and to the safety of 

But such is the influence of this corporation, to 
which the revival of civil and religious despotism 
gave a new existence in the commencement of 
this century, that biographers seem to wish to 
exculpate a man branded with the most horrible 
crimes: such is the direction which they are striv- 
ing to pve to present generations. Whither then 


would they lead us ? Do they hope to make Papal 
and Jesuitical Catholicism prevail against reason 
and the evangelical doctrine ? Will they unken- 
nel, for this purpose, legions of long or short-robed 
Jesuits ? Will they divide France into two camps» 
ready to come to blows, and shed the blood of our 
citizens to secure the triumph of this holy cause ? 
We have no room for doubt, when in these day&— 
in the nineteenth century — ^we see the tendency 
of the politico-religious system that prevails in 
Boman Catholic countries, and even among Pro- 
testants, when we are witnesses of conflicts, dis- 
turbances, and even of civil war kindled in Swit- 

One of the most remarkable features of this 
prosecution is the Jesuitical and sacerdotal coali- 
tion to save a wretch from the vengeance of the 
laws, and make the punishment due to his crimes 
fall upon an unfortunate but innocent girl. 

Indeed, what is more monstrous than to see, on 
the one hand, the most enormous infemy coun- 
selled or authorised, and identified with religion, 
and the ministers of the most holy of religions the 
accomplices and protectors of the most unbridled 
licentiousness, and the oppressors of innocence and 
misfortune, and, on the other hand, tribunals lend- 
ing themselves to combinations so contrary to aH 
justice ? For, indeed, we see, in this prosecution, 
the Jesuits take the alarm and set in motion all 


their intrigues, perfidy, and influence, to clear one 
of their body, and devolve shame and punishment 
upon La Cadi^re and her family. First, in con- 
cert with Girard, they suborn the numerous de- 
votees whom he held captive under his direction, 
and several of whom had been enticed by him into 
the same debauchery. They acted in the same 
way upon the minds of the nuns, whose director 
he was, at the very moment La Cadiere was about 
to be interrogated and confronted with the wit- 
nesses. This is not all : she was threatened with 
the torture and other pains, if she insisted on 
maintaining her complaint ; and they added that 
if, on the contrary, she persisted in her retracta- 
tion, she might be sure that she should leave the 
convent as soon as possible, without either herself 
or her relations being punished. She declares 
that these outrages, threats, and promises, were 
made, as well by the superior nuns of the convent 
as by other persons. She adds that the recorder 
of the officiality made no scruple, when a part of 
the witnesses wished to depose, to refuse them ; 
he would not take down their testimony. She 
reveals several other acts of violence and suborn- 

La Cadiere had had time to become acquainted 
with the plottings of the Jesuits against her. 
Noticing that Father Girard rambled when con- 
fronted with her, she said to him: "In fact, I 


know I have an aiSur with a cunning Jesuit, a 
great preacher, backed by a powerful and formi- 
dable society; but I do not fear you; I have 
truth on my side ; and it will not be difficult to 
confound you.** This girl showed admirable cour- 
age amid the calumny which assailed her on all 
sides. Father Girard impudently presuming to 
call her a cheat (Jrvpcmtje)^ this insult excited her 
indignation, and, half rising from her stool, she 
replied to him angrily ; but, fearing lest she had 
been wanting in respect to her judges, she begged 
them to pardon her this impulse of indignation^ 
excited, she said, by so much impudence. 

This scene caused universal surprise among the 
magistrates. So much modesty, good sense, and 
firmness, united in a girl whose birth and educa- 
tion promised nothing of the sort, seemed a pro- 

The Jesuits and their trusty friends among the 
secular clergy made, as we have said, a pompous 
apology for Father Girard, in order to relieve 
their honour and throw blame upon La CadiSre, 
by condemning the issue of the prosecution. 
Thus, the Bishop of Marseilles wrote to the minis- 
ter Fleury, even under the pretext of the interests 
of religion and those of the state, as he himself 
expresses it: ** You know, sir," says he, "in what 
manner the parliament of Aix has finished the 
grand afiair which has so long occupied the atten- 


lion of all Europe, and you have perceived better 
than any one the indignity and ridiculousness of a 
sentence which has discharged both the accusers 
and the accused. K the judges had caused Father 
Girard, whom I consider <is a true saint, to be 
burnt, they would have committed an injustice ; 
but they would not have dishonoured themselves 
before men as they have done," &c. 

We might speak of a second law-suit, brought 
against another monk, of the order of Observan- 
tins, who figured as an actor in favour of Father 
Girard, in the trial of that Jesuit, under the pro- 
tection of episcopal authority ; but his order, far 
from being the accomplice of his crimes, prosecuted 
him for robbery and seduction, in spite of the in- 
trigues of the Jesuits. But we have said enough 
in this chapter upon such an odious subject. 

We will conclude by quoting a few condem- 
nations, in causes of seduction in confession, by 
our parliaments, before Father Girard's affair, 
which ended in 1731. 

We find in the registers of the parliament of 
Paris that the curate of Saint Sauveur, at Pe- 
ronne, having been convicted of having had an 
intrigue with a nun, his penitent, was condemned, 
on the 12th of June, 1707, to nine years' banish- 
ment. On the 31st of January, 1660, the parlia- 
ment of Grenoble condemned a priest to be hanged 
,and afterwards to be burnt, for having made an abuse 


of the sacrament of penance^ and for having laid 
his hands upon the necks and other parts of the 
bodies of a multitude of his penitents^ whilst 
hearing their confession. The parliament of 
Paris, by a decree of the 22d of June, 1673, con- 
demned a director of nuns, for seduction, to make 
amende hcmorable before Notre-Dame, to be hanged 
at the Place Maubert, and to be burnt, together 
with his process. The same parliament pro- 
nounced on the 6th of March, 1714, a decree of 
penalty of death against a curate of the diocese of 
Bourges, for having seduced, in the tribunal of 
confession, several of his parishioners, and for at- 
tempting to violate their chastity. In 1693, by a 
sovereign judgment given at the Provincial Coun- 
cil of Artois, on the 21st of December, Nicholas 
Beguiet, the Curate of Saint Paul, convicted of , 
incest with one of his parishioners and penitents, 
was condemned to make amende honorable, holding 
a taper, and to perpetual banishment for that crime, 
and for having committed forgeries in the registers 
of baptism. 







We liave seen in the preceding cliapterB what 
were the penalties and privations inflicted upon 
penitents among the primitive Christians. But 
discipline being relaxed with the prosperity and 
the triumph of the Church, not only the time of 
penance was abridged, but it was alleviated by- 
easy fastings, slight abstinence, short prayers, pil- 
grimagesy and by what was designated under the 
term of pious works, such as the foundation of mo- 
nasteries, the building of churches, donations to 


these game churches^ the erection of hospitals, and 
by prayers and masses. Gradually also the remis- 
sion of sins was made to be an object of barter, 
and was to be procured for ready money. Eccle- 
siastical history, and especially the old chronicles 
and the lives of the saints, demonstrate the con- 
stant eagerness ever displayed by the clergy, es- 
pecially by the court of Kome and the monks, to 
acquire temporal possessions ; a system which, in 
our own time, has reappeared with new activity. 
This simoniacal usage of administering the sacra- 
ments for money dates from remote antiquity, and 
has not ceased to exist, though it has foimd in all 
ages ecclesiastics who, being ftdl of the sacred 
functions of their ministry, have opposed it with 
noble disinterestedness. They said with Saint 
Paul, " And having food and raiment, let us be 
therewith content."* 

This kind of simony was forbidden by certain 
councils, as we shall presently show, but the auri 
sacra fames braves every law, even in religion. 
Have not monks been seen undertaking for money 
to do the canonical penance imposed upon sinners 
by the bishops? We may see an example of this 
in the concession quoted by Muratori, which Coimt 
Ddebrand made of an estate that was in litiga« 
tion with the monks, on condition that they woxdd 

* S. Paul, ad Tim., 1, c. vi., v. 8. 



undertake the penance imposed upon him by his 
bishop. " The monks," says Udebrand, " earnestly 
entreated by me, took upon themselves the severe 
penance of three years, to which Bishop Aretin 
had subjected me."* 

It was by means of their absolutions in articulo 
mortis that the secular and regular clergy invaded 
a notable portion of the estates of Christendom. 
By these means a man thought he saved his soul, 
that of his wife, and those of all his relations-f 
This is what was called redempiianis may the road 
to heaven ; nay, they went still farther to attain 
this aim — ^miracles were supposed which opened 
the gates of heaven to the sinner. " For to this," 
says Fleury, "tended most of the histories related 
in the collections of miracles of Saint Martin, 
Saint Benedict, and other very famous saints. J The 
same author quotes, in support of these facts, the 
life of Saint Meinvere de Paderbonne, who lived 
in the reign of Saint Henri. " This life," says he. 

* Et insuper a me humiliter exorati, onus trium annorum 
de pGenitentia mea super se susceperunt, qnam de peccatis 
meis ab Aretina e^Hscopo acdperam. — (Murat^ Antiq. med. 
<BY]\ t. v., an. 1154, p. 757.) 

f Pro remedio animse mes, et anim» superadictss uxoris 
mes, et parentum nostrorum, denique remissione omnium 
peccatorum nostrorum. 

{ Fleury, Disc, sur 1* Hisl. Eccl6s , 3me disc, No. 2. 


" is principally taken up with the enumeration of 
the lands he acquired for his ChurcL"* 

Whilst penance was mtdntained in all its rigour 
in a few convents of Cenobites, it became easy 
and expeditious for worldly people, and especially 
for the rich, whatever might be the crimes of which 
they were guilty. Money, donations at the point 
of death, became a penance not less efficacious for 
the redemption of sins than macerations continued 
throughout the natural term of life. Not satisfied 
with taking some contribution for admitting the 
sinner to the sacrament of penance,t his fastings 
were dispensed with by means of a sum in propor- 
tion to his fortune. X These means proving insuf- 
ficient to satisfy avarice, an expedient was found, 
with great sinners or scrupulous souls, to effect 
the appropriation of considerable wealth. For 
this purpose crimes were taxed, and possessions 
were demanded, in proportion to the gravity and 
number of the sins committed. ^*You are not 
ignorant," writes Pierre Damien, ^^ that we mea- 
sure the degree of penance in proportion to the 

* Fleuiy, disc, ix^ No. 11. 

f Ministerkim ad baptismum vel poenitentiam ex argento, 
pensant libras quinque. — (Anastasius, in vita Sixt. iii., apud 
Mart., t. iii., p. 118.) 

{ Si quis vero non poterit jejunare, et habet unde dare ad 
redimendum, si fuerit dives, pro septem hebdomadibus det 
solidos 20 ; si autem multum pauper fuerit, det solidos 3. 


value of the gifts."* This is what was called 
numey-^enance — poenitentice deargentatcB. " Money- 
penance,'^ says he, in his life of Saint Hugo, 
Sishop of Grenoble, ^4s not imposed upon those 
who have been convicted of their crimes, or who 
haye ayowed them."t Bishops had also arrogated 
to themselyes the right of imposing upon penitents 
not only money, but also corporeal punishments, 
which might be ransomed for money. This simo- 
niacal act, by which they authorised themselves, 
imder pretext of penance, to lay an impost upon 
individuals, was, moreover, a usurpation of the 
rights of the 80vereign.:{ 

We believe it was to levy this impost that 
the clergy so earnestly solicited sinners to ap- 
proach the tribunal of penance. § Men were 

* Kon ignoras quia cum a poenitentibus terras accipimus, 
jnxta mensuram muneris, eis de quantitate poenitentMe relax- 
amus. — (Pet. Dam., in Epist. apud Baron., anno 1055.) 

t Non deargentatam convictis, vel confitentibus imposuit 
poenitentiam. — (In vitaS. Hugon.,Epis.Gratiopolit., No. 20.) 

X Si proelatus imponat poenam pecuniariam alicui pro pec- 
cato, et repetat illam, regia probibitio non habet locum. 
Yerumtamen si proelati imponant pcenitentias corporales, et 
illi, sic pnniti, velint hujusce modi pcenitentias per pecunias 
spcmte redimere, locum non habet regia prohibitio, si coram 
proelatis pecunia ab eis esdgatur. — (Condi. Triburiense, ann. 
895, c. 57, 58.) 

§ Statuimus ut omnes archidiaconi et presbyteri, sicut 
sacri canones priecipiunt, vocent ad poenitentiam adulteros. 


absolved who had lost all knowledge^ and when it 
could not be ascertained whether they wished to 
do penance ; for it was necessary that the priest 
should be always present at their death and exer- 
cise his ministry, in order not to lose his rights. 
But, in this case, should they recover their health, 
they were forced to do the penance imposed upon 
them. Father Mabillon quotes a remarkable in- 
stance of this kind. Wamba, king of the Visigoths, 
having been poisoned, and being supposed to be at 
the point of death, senseless and inanimate, Qui- 
ricius, bishop of Toledo, imposed a penance upon 
hiuL The king having recovered his health, shut 
himself up in a monastery, where he remained till 
his death, in order to accomplish the penance which 
had been prescribed for hiuL* 

The Church soon forgot the precept of Jesus 
Christ — " Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise 
the dead, cast out devils : freely ye have received, 
freely give."t The custom of offerings had been 
established, not to procure worldly comforts for 
the bishops and priests, but to be divided into 

incestos, sanguine mistos, fures, homicidas, maleficos, et qui 
cum animalibus se inquinant ; et si poenitere noluerint, sepa- 
rentur ab ecclesia et a communione. — (Concil. Cyacensi, anno. 
1050, can. 4.) 

* Mabill., t. i., anat. Benedict., p. 11, 

t Matth., cap. x., v. 8. 


equal portions among the poor, and the widows, 
orphans, and the priests who were not in a state to 
procure themselves the necessaries of life by their 
labour. " K we have," says Tertullian, " a kind of 
treasury among us, it is money amassed without 
dishonouring religion : every month a sum is put 
by voluntarily, for it is necessary for every one to 
be willing and able, each doing so of his own ac- 
cord, and without being compelled. This fund is, 
like a pious deposit, to be opened ; not to make 
feasts and banquets, but to feed and maintain the 

It is plain that the means of acquiring wealth 
have been, at aU times, employed by the clergy, 
even in the administration of the sacrament: this is 
proved as well by the facts of ecclesiastical history 
as by the reiterated canons of the councils, which 
protest against this anti-christian simony, and, 
moreover, by the decrees of the popes — a sacri- 
legious custom practised even as early as the end 
of the third century, as is proved by the 48th 
canon of the Council of Elvira: — "We have thought 
proper to put an end to the custom prevalent 
among those who present themselves for baptism, 
of giving money ; in order that the priest may not 
appear to change the nature of what he received 

Tertull., apolog., § 39. 


gratuiliously.'** The Council of Voison, held Ib- 
442, excommunicates those who receive money" 
from the sick. This kind of simony was uninter— 
xuptedly propagated in the succeeding centuries^ 
and prevsdled in the court of Kome more openly^ 
than in any other churcL This is what ^neas 
Sylvius — ^he who later became pope under the 
name of Pius 11. — complained of about the middle 
of the twelfth century. " The court of Rom6," 
says he, " gives nothing but for ready money ; it 
goes so far as to sell the imposition of hands and 
the gifts of the Holy Ghost : even the absolution 
of sins is obtained only with money, "f 

The administration of the sacraments, and par^ 
ticularly of confession, was likewise a subject of 
speculation in France. A violent altercation arose 
on this very subject between the officiating priest 
of the parish of Saint Eustache, at Paris, and the 
one of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. This vestry 
quarrel was brought to an end in 1250 by an 
agreement to the effect, that to the latter church 
dhould belong aU the offerings made to that of 
Saint-Eustache, and that both churches should 
share the emoluments proceeding from the produce 

* Emendari placuit, ut hi qui baptizantur (ut fieri solebatN 
nummos ia concham non mittant, ne sacerdos quod gratis 
accepit, pretio detrahere videatur.— (Concil. Elibert, can. 48.) 

•j- JEueas Sylvius, Epist. 66^ ad Joan. Peragell. 


of confession^ baptism^ visits to the sick^ extreme 
unction, legacies of moveables and fixtures, bene- 
diction of nuptial couches, money given at the 
church-doors on occasions of marriages, &c, &c. 
We here see that nothing that can bring in money 
had been forgotten, if we except the privileged 
enclosures, as at the present day in the churches 
of La Madeleina and Loretto, where none enter 
but those who pay from ten to fifty centimes, ac- 
cording to the magnificence of the ceremonies, the 
celebrity of the preachers, or that of the ladies who 
collect the money (dames qnStetises,) 

The pretensions of the clergy, and their thirst 
for lucre, increased to such a pitch as to induce 
them, even in the fifteenth century, to bring ac- 
tions against those who refused the payment de- 
manded. Confession was paid as people pay for a 
mass at the present day ; nay, the priest purchased 
of the revenue of the parish standing-room for a 
confessional, just as a person who lets out chairs 
purchases the right of placing them in a church. 
In 1776, there was a law-suit between the confes- 
sors and the curate of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie. 
The curate accused them of not putting strictly 
into the box the perquisites they received in their 
confessionals. During all the time this trial lasted, 
no confessors were to be found for the sick, because 
there was no profit in confessing them. * At 

* Essai d'une histoire de la paroisse de Saint- Jacques-la- 


length, the parliament of Paris condemned the ex- 
action of these perquisites as simoniacal and sacri- 

But a still more odious means, and one more 
contrary to religion, morality, and sound policy, is 
that of inveigling by the medium of confession, 
and by surreptitious wiUs, private fortunes, to the 
detriment of the heirs. It is by this means, so 
potent with weak or superstitious minds, and lately 
put in practice with a remarkable activity, that have 
arisen, as if by magic, those numerous convents of 
men and women, which now cover every part of 

The Church, which, in the middle ages, had 
seized with address and under pretence of religion 
every opportunity of mingling in temporal affairs, 
had managed, in the eighth, ninth, and tenth cen- 
turies, by alleging its canonical right, to take a 
share in wills and to deny their validity, unless 
the curate, assisted by two witnesses, had sanc- 
tioned them by his presence. We see by the 16th 
canon of the council of Toulouse, in 1229, that 
the bishops of which it was composed declared 
void the last wills of testators, who had not been 
authorised by the curate or the official. That of 
Albi, in the year 1254, threatens with excommu- 
nication such heirs as may refuse to hand over to 
the curates the testaments of the deceased. They 
enjoin the pastors to read them publicly in their 


parishes and to cause them to be executed. They 
carried things even to the extreme of reAismg 
burial to those whose wills had not been deposited 
' in the hands of the bishop^ official^ or curatCj even 
though they had confessed their eons. Every man 
who died without having given a part of his wealth 
to the Church was deprived of prayers, which, in 
clerical terms were called decoufL John Gralli, or 
Le Cog, observes that heirs, to save the honour of 
an intestate person, used to ask as a favour to 
administer for him ad causas pias* 

The venality of the sacraments and things re- 
lating to worship had been carried tb such an 
excess in Catholicism, at the period of the sitting 
of the Coimcil of Trent, that they were obliged 
to take into condderation the scandalous abuses 
against which the Protestants had exclaimed. It 
was first proposed to add, to the decree which for- 
bade to exact anything or ask for anythingy the 
words to receive nothing ; and, in the second place, 
they added besides — under pretext of any customs 
whatsoever. " They who wished," says Fra Paolo, 
^^that there should be added a prohibition against 
receiving anything under pretext of custom, 
grounded their reasons on the precept prescribed 
to the apostles to give gratuitously what they had 
gratuitously received^ and on several canons of the 

* Galli, qussst. 212. 


councils, which pronounce against those who gave 
or who received temporal things for a spiritual 
one. They said that the custom, which is contrary 
to divine and natural law, is a corruption whidh 
ought not to take place ; that, under the title of 
Simania, they condemn the custom of giving or 
receiving for the possession of benefices, the bene- 
diction of marriage, the benediction of chrism or 
of oil, and for burials ; and that the application of 
this prohibition was much more just with respect 
to the administration of the sacraments : that not 
to forbid the custom of receiving, would be doing 
nothing, since the corruption had become general, 
and every one made the imiversality his excuse; 
that as the decree had condemned the custom of 
receiving before the administration of the sacra- 
ments, they ought, for the same reason, to prohibit 
generally the receiving anything afterwards ; be- 
cause, by not expressly condemning the former, 
they would seem to approve of the latter — ^lastly, 
in order to get the sacraments administered in all 
purity, it was necessary to suppress absolutely the 
voluntary offerings at the time of receiving the 
sacraments, and to exhort the faithftd to make 
them at other times and on other occasions." ' 

All these reasons and motives which ought to 
have prevailed among men imbued with evangeli- 
cal precepts, and with the honour and dignity of 
religion, were rejected by the influence of the 


clergy, who have constantly striven to augment 
their riches. Arguments were found to oppose to 
the precepts and the example of the apostles, who 
gave gratuitously what they had gratuitously re- 
ceived. They went even so far as to say " that 
ihetf might not to avow that there had been a custom 
established in the Church to give or receive anything 
for the administration of the sacraments, because the 
usage of offerings being found everywherCy it teould 
be avowing that the Church had tolerated or even 
approved a very pernicious abuse,* Thus they dis- 
sembled a truth known to all, in order to autho- 
rize a lucrative simony. 

Mtreover, not only was this kind of dmony 
received into the general practice of the Church, 
but it was approved and exercised on a great scale 
by the popes. It was in the general Council of 
Latran that Innocent III., the founder of sacer- 
dotal confession, caused the custom of receiving 
money for the administration of the sacraments to 
be approved, and to be prescribed to the bishops, 
in the name of the council, to oblige the people, 
either by gentle means or by ecclesiastical penal- 
ties, to observe this laudable custom which people 
had desired to have condemned as sacrilegious. 

Muratori mentions an ancient penitential ritual,t 

♦ Histoire du Concile de Trente, par Fra Paolo Sarpi, Lii. 
f Muratori, t. v., Antiqui medii oevi, p. 724. 


which proves that the custom of receiving money 
to exempt from canonical penance^^'and grant a 
pardon for sins was very common in the eighth 
century. He owns that it is by these means that 
the secular clergy as well as the monks have 
acquired great possessions. "Everybody sees 
plainly," says he, " that it was from the redemp- 
tion of sins that arose that considerable quantity 
(non levem copiam) of territorial possessions and 
other riches, by means of which both the monastic 
and secular churches have been so speedily en- 
riched (cehriter ditatcR fuerird).^ He remarks that 
it was at the period when it became lawftd for 
monks to confess, that they came gradually to take 
a share in this abundant harvest (in hanc sevmrn 
messim convolaberunt)^ and strong in the privileges 
that had been given them, they know how to turn 
them to advantage. 

We find in the same ritual the degree of guilt 
attached to the different sins, and the quantity and 
duration to be observed in those penances. This 
ritual indicates at the same time how and with 
what sum any one may be enfranchised from very 
painful practices to which it would be necessary to 
submit, if he did not avail himself of a means 
which has, on the one hand, the advantage of being 
generally easy, and which, on the other, enriches 
and enhances the prosperity of the clergy. Ac- 
cordingly, they say therein to the confessor, 


" Whenever we give a counsel to the penitent, let 
us b^in witib^posing a penance — ^how long and 
in what manner he must fast; and if he cannot 
&8t, he may redeem his sins, sijgunare non potest, 
rtkUmere pecccUa sua possit It is added that every 
penitent must observe the fast prescribed by his 
confessor, or in lieu of it the compensations, which 
Gonsbt in giving, if the person be rich, twenty-six 
sous for a year of penance ; but if poor, it is suffi- 
cient to give three sous.* It had also been pre- 
scribed — ^no doubt according to the amount of a 
mass — ^that it was necessary to cause thirty masses 
to be said to buy off one year's penanccf 

The kind of sins mentioned in this ritual is an 
evident proof of the great depravity, barbarity, 
and gross superstition which reigned in the eighth 
and following centuries^ both among the clergy 
and the laity. We find therein, for instance, that 
they took the communion, though in a state of 
drunkenness, and that if they happened to vomit 
the sacred waver, they were liable to forty days' 

* Muratori, t. v., Antiqui medii oevi, p. 724. 

t Trigenta missae duodedm menses possunt redimere. — 
(Id., ibid., p. 726.) 

X Accepisti communionem sanctam? conservasti earn ? Si 
▼omitum fecisti ex ea propter ebrietatem, xl dies poeniteas. 
—(Id., ibid., p. 733.) 


We see in these boons the great error in which 
people lay as to the degree of gravity and culpa- 
bility of the different sins compared with one 
another. Thus a seven years' penance with bread 
and water was imposed upon a homicide ; one of 
seven years' penance likewise upon a married man 
who had gone astray with a foreign woman or a 
virgin; whereas they condemned to five years of the 
same penance for imaginary sins and idle supersti- 
tions, against which they had not been able to warn 
the people, after eight centuries of preaching and 
confession: such as recourse to sorcerers, confidence 
in diviners, ltd sarcerias reeurrunt, ad divinaiiones 
credunt; ten years for having sworn on an altar 
and committed peijury; seven years for having 
worshipped idok, practised enchantments^ divina- 
tionsi, or consulted destiny5 cduisti ideia, pel incem' 
tatumesy atit dimnati<mes vel series; seven years for 
having placed one's child upon a roof or in an 
oven, for the purpose of recovering his health, 
posuistiJiUum tuum super tectum out in fomace per 
samtatenu We find, moreover, in these penit^i- 
tials or rituals a prohibition to eat blood or stifled 
animals — a prohibition, which, by the by, is for- 
mally stated in the New Testament, but which 
Christians have had no scruple in violating for se- 
veral centuries. They likewise proscribe as 
unclean the use of aliments and liquors that have 
been in contact with certain animals : they enjoin 


mamed people to observe continenoe during the 
^ole of Lent. As to those who would not ab- 
stain during all that time, they may be exempted 
by doii^ one year's penance or paying to the 
Church the sum o£ twenty-six sous.* This is a 
kind of impost to which no power had hitherto 
thought of submitting its subjects. Lastly, an 
intercourse with male or female demons is liable to 
penance, &c 

After laying down a csitalogae of enormous 
crimes, the ritual we have been quoting fixes the 
number of years of penance to which everybody 
ought to be subject, and then it adds: ^^But as 
this penance is difficult to some persons, it may be 
replaced by compensation in reciting psalms and 
prayers, either by night or day.^f It afterwards 
indicates the number of psalms which must be re- 
cited to compensate one, two, or three months' 
penance, or for one of a whole year. It prescribes 
twenty for the latter case : it afterwards puts the 
most gormandizing penitent at his ease, by telling 
him, " He may afterwards make use of all the ali- 

* Qui in quadragesima ante Pascha oognoverit uxorem 
aaam, et noluerit abstinere ab ea, uno anno poeniteat, et pre- 
tium suum, videlicet zxvL solidos ad Ecclesiam tribuat, aut 
pauperibus dividat.— (Apud Burcha^ lib. xix., c. 76.) 

t Et ideo qui sic ista ad implere non potest, coDsilium 
damus ut in psalmis et orationibus vel vigiliis in noctibus, sive 
diebus aliquot in pcenitentiam pro hoc esse debeat Id est., 
etc — (Muratori, t. v., Antiqui medii oevL, p. 725.) 


ments that God affords him, when he has chanted 
his psabns ; he will have afterwards an entire re- 
mission of his sins But as for him who knows 

no psalms, and, prescribed to fast, can for no entire 
day do so, let him give alms in money according 


to his means. 

So we see they had proceeded gradually, in 
order idtimately to gain their point, of making 
people redeem their sins by money. Indeed, 
canonical penances being both very long and very 
severe, especially such as prescribed fasting on 
bread and water — a diet so contrary to the sensual 
inclinations of that period — ^people preferred to 
get exempted by reciting a few prayers, or, still 
better, by giving money to the priests and monks, 
who dispensed the sinner from this duty by saying 
a few masses or reciting a part of the service in 
his behalf. The penitents believed they had thus 
fully satisfied divine justice for the crimes with 
which they were defiled ; for these same priests 
told them " that God does not judge twice, but 
that, having submitted to their confessor, their 
sins are blotted out for ever.^f 

* Et omnem dbum quod ei Dominus dederit, postquam 
psallit sumat . . . et post hoec remissio pleniter est. ... Et 
qui psalmos nescit, et jejunare debet, et non potest per unum- 
quemque diem, det denarium valentem in eleeomosina, aut 
quantum potest. — (Muratori, t. v., Antiqui medii oevi, p. 725, 

t Hoc scire potes, frater, quod Dominus non judicabit bis, 
Bed omnia in vera confessione lavantur,— (Id., ibid., p. 728.) 


The custom of consulting the priest upon the kind 
of penance to be performed, gave rise to formulas 
in which they were graduated according to the 
<^imon of the Casuists of those periods. Upon 
each of these sins a particular kind and an especial 
duration of penance were imposed. From the wri- 
tings of Saint Gregory, of Nicea, and Saint Basil, 
we find that this practice existed in their time. 
The confessors, having before their eyes the rituals 
wherein all the sins were inscribed, noted those of 
which anyone accused himself, afterwards smnmed 
up the days, months, and years of penance at- 
tached to each, and formed of them a total and a 
duration of time which they prescribed to their 
penitents. But the variety of sins, and especially 
the frequent backslidings of a great number of 
persons into the same faults, extended the dura- 
tion of canonical penalties to one, two, or three 
hundred years, and even more. As the life of a 
man would not have sufficed, and as, moreover, 
they perceived the impossibility of subjecting sin- 
ners for all the rest of their lives to such severe 
penalties and intolerable austerity, they had re- 
course to compensation and the commutation of 
pimishments ; and whole years of arduous penance 
were redeemed by a few easy practices — an ab- 
solution but littie onerous to most people, and 
very lucrative to the clergy. Thus, for instance, 
they who, by reason of the number and gravity 



of their sins, were bound down to a penance of 
three hundred years, were at hberty to escape it 
by paying down seven thousand eight hundred 
sous. In case any one could not pay in ready 
money, he gave up his territorial property re- 
serving the rents to himself during his own life. 
We find in the following passage the extract of 
an act of donation made to certain monks, which 
is sufficient to give an idea of the spirit in 
which these donations were made : ** Having one 
day reflected that the impious and sinners who 
neglect to redeem their sins, impii etpeccatores qui 
peccata sua redimere negligunt^ are condemned to 
eternal pains with demons, suddenly God inspired 
us with his divine mercy; our heart was touched; 
and it was with fear, eagerness, and anxiety that 
we sought the counsel of priests and religious 
men, quisrere consilium a sacerdoiibus et religiosis 
virisy in order to know how we could escape the 
wrath of the eternal judge. The counsel that has 
been given us is that, among the virtues, there is 
none greater than charity, and that the act we 
ought to prefer to all others, is to give to the 
monastery a portion of our wealth."* This pas- 

♦ Et concilio accepto, quod nihil sit melius aJiud inter 
eleemosinadrum virtutes, quam si de propriis rebus et sub- 
stantiis nostris in monasterio dederimus.— (Murat., Antiq. 
med. oevi, t. v^ p. 743.) 


sage sufficiently shows what was the power of 
confession^ especially among the monks^ religiosis 
virisy to persuade ignorant and superstitious men 
that^ of all virtues, the most meritorious, nihil est 
melius inter virtutesy and the one it sufficed to 
possess and to show, in order to obtain the re- 
mission of all their sins, was to enrich the clergy. 

It is not only in the rituals or penitentials we 
have quoted that the nomenclature of the com- 
mutations of penalties and that of the taxes im- 
posed upon penitents by the popes, bishops, and 
monks, is to be found. There existed such in 
every diocese in the middle ages; but they varied 
according to the period and the spirit in which 
they were composed. If a greater number of 
them have not reached our own time, it is because 
they were kept secret in the hands of a limited 
number of confessors without it being lawful to 
c(»nmunicate them to the laity. Accordingly, we 
find that Pope Nicholas, on being consulted 
thereon in 1366, replied: '^It is not meet that 
laymen should be acquainted with these things, 
for they have no right to judge the acts of the 

The custom of obtaining absolution for sins 

♦ Nam soeculares tale quid habere non convemty nimirum 
quibus per id quemquam judicandi ministerium nullum tri- 
buitur. — (Murat, t. v., p. 741.) 


haying been gradually introduced into the Latin 
Churchy the popes took ahnost exdusive posses- 
sion of this lucrative branch of revenue. Leo X. 
then ordered lists and catalogues of dns to be 
drawn up at Eome^ designating the sum that was p 
to be paid to obtain absolution for them. Therein ic 

we find also permissions and dispensations which^ 
concern either the laity or the ecclesiastics, and 
for the obtaining of which payment was to be 
made, as is also the custom in the present day in 
several cases. This ecclesiastical budget is en* 
titled: ^^' Taxes of the ApostoUc Chancery^ and 
** Taxes of the Holy ApostoUc PenxteniiaryJ^ This 
monstrous abuse, as pernicious to morality as to 
religion, was, for several centuries, set working on 
a large scale, and procured confflderable revenues 
to the court of Rome. To satisfy the reader's 
curiosity, we give here an extract of a few of the 
articles which are found in this work : — cd 

For a town to be entitled to coin money, 500 
drachms {gros).\ 

Remission given to a rich man for the wealth 
which he has absconded with, 50 d. 

* Taxce cancellariffi apostolicae et Taxse sanctae poeniten- 
tiariae apostolicae. — (Romae, 15, 14.) 

t I have not been able to fix the exact value of the money 
designated in this book of taxes under the name of gros. — 
(The eighth of an ounce of silver ?) — Transl. 



For a poor man^ 20 d. 

For a layman not to be bound to observe fasts 
oammanded by the Church, and to eat cheese, 20 d. 

For permission given to counts to eat meat and 
^gs on forbidden days, on accoimt of their health, 
12 d. 

For commuting a vow made by a layman to 
visit the tomb of the apostles, 12 d. 

For enabling a nobleman to receive the sacra- 
ments with his family, and to be buried in a for- 
bidden place, 30 d» 

For exempting a lajrman from a vow thought- 
lessly made, 12 d. 

For allowing a ship to sail to convey merchan- 
dize to the infidels, 100 d. 

For enabling a king and queen to procure in- 
dulgences, as if they had been to Bome, 200 d. 

For permission to have mass celebrated in a for- 
bidden place, 10 d. 

For absolution at the point of death, for one 
person, 14 d. 

For granting a confessional to a brotherhood, 

For a convent, 50 d* 

For the absolution of a king who may have 
visited the Holy Sepulchre without the pope's 
permission, 100 d. 

For absolution for the excesses and offences of a 
layman, 12 d. 


For those of a town, 100 d. 

For an abbot to be able to absolve the apostate 
monks of the convents subject to him, 16 d. 

For an indulgence of two years for a church 
and chapel, 20 d. 

For an indulgence of one year and fifteen days, 
when the angelic salutation is said at the tolling 
ofthebeU, 12 d. 

For an indulgence for those who visit the body 
of Jesus Christ, when it is publicly exposed, 12 d. 

For the absolution of any one practising usury 
in secret, 7d. 

For the absolution of any one who has been in- 
timate with a woman in a church, and has done 
any other harm, 6 d. 

For the absolution of a concubinary and dispen- 
sation of irregularities, 7 d. 

For the absolution of him who has conau char- 
neUement any female of his kindred, 5 d. 

For the absolution of him who has violated a 
virgin, 6d. 

Foi^ the absolution of a simoniacal priest, 7 d. 
Idem, if he be a monk, 8 d. 

For the absolution of pequry, 6 d. 

For the absolution of any one who has revealed 
the confesdon of another person, 7 d. 

For the absolution of a man or woman who, 
during the time of interdict, has carried out bodies 
for burial, or has buried them, 9 d. 


For permission to eat meat, butter, eggs, and 
whatever is made of milk, during Lent or other 
fast days, 7 d. 

For the absolution of him who has killed his 
&ther, mother, brother, sister, wife, or any other 
o£ his lay relations, 5 or 6 d. 

(For, if the person killed were an ecclesiastic, 
the murderer would be bound to visit the apos- 
tolic see.) , 

For the absolution of a husband who, beating 
his wife, causes abortion, 6 d. 

For a woman who takes any beverage or em- 
ploys any other means to cause her child to perish, 

For a dispensation for a priest present or absent, 
gtd abscindit sous testiculoSy 16 d. 

For an absolution for spoilers, incendiaries, 
thieves, and homicidal laymen, 8 d. 

Itwouldbe supererogatory to givefurther extracts 
from a book which contains more than eight him- 
dred cases subject to the apostolic tax. What has 
just been read will enable us to form an idea of it. 
The reader may have remarked the disproportion 
of the taxes which ought to be in the same ratio 
as the culpability or the favours granted ; this was 
especially striking in the first case mentioned, 
since the concession in question is in no way con- 
nected with the sacrament of penance. We may 
also remark the facility granted to the rich to 


atone with 50 dL for a fortune acquired by pillage 
or other unjust means. But what is not less scan- 
dalous, is to see that absolution for the most enor- 
mous crimes is taxed much lower than the non- 
observance of a few insignificant practices pre- 
scribed hj the court of Rome. Thus, he who has 
killed his father, mother, sister, or wife, obtains 
absolution by paying 5 drachma; he who has 
committed incest is absolved also for 5 drachms; 
and the woman who has caused abortion 8 drachms. 
On the other hand, a monk who has passed from, 
one monastery to another, without permission, will 
get absolution only by paying 16 d. A king who 
may have been to pay a visit to the holy sepul- 
chre, without the pope's permission, can be ab- 
solved only for the sum of 100 drachms. They 
value at 9 drachms the absolution of a man or 
woman who may have performed the last funeral 
rites to a person, though it be their father or 
mother, because it may have pleased a Bishop of 
Home, some four or five hundred leagues off*, to 
pronounce excommimication against them. They 
grant a license for conveying merchandise to the 
infidels, for the sums of 100 drachms. And a king 
and queen may gain indulgences, as if they had 
performed the journey to Rome, by paying into 
the apostolic chancery the sum of 200 drachms. 

These prescriptions — ^favours, if you will— each 
more fantastical, singular, and absurd than the 


other^ and all originating in sacerdotal confession^ 
end with an article entitled: ^^ De absolutianibtis 
mortuoTum^ in whicli we find an article that we 
copy textuallj: ^^Pro mortuo excommunicato^ jpor 
quo suppKcant consanffuineiy Uttera absoluHonis venit^ 
ducat. 1^ carL 9. 

Thus, the pope exalting his power to a level 
with that of God, gives, at the request of the rela- 
tions, letters of ahsolution to deceased persons in a 
state of ex(^OImnunication ; so that a soul hurled 
to the lowest pit of heU can be got back by paying 
to the holy penitentiary of Rome the sum of one 
ducat nine carlins! 

We wiU end this chapter with a literal quotation 
of the formula of plenary absolution^ prescribed by 
the tribunal of the apostolic chancery : — 

Misereatur tuiy etc. Dominus noster Jesus 
Christus, per merita suae sanctissimas passionis te 
absolvat ; et ego auctoritate ejusdem et beatorum 
Pauli et Petri apostolorum ejus, ac santissimi Do- 
mini nostri papas tibi concessa, et in hac parte mihi 

Te absolvo, primo, omnibus censuris ecclesiasti- 
cis per te quomodo libet incursis, deinde ab omni- 
bus peccatis, delictis et excessibus tuis hactenusper 
te commissis quantum cumque enormibus^ etiam sedi 
apostolicae reservatis. 

In quantum claves sanctaB matris Ecclesias se 
extendunt, remittendo tibi per plenariam indulgen- 


tiam omnem poenam in purgatorio pro praemiBsia 
tibi debitam ; et restituo te Sanctis sacramentis Ec- 
desias et unitati fidelium^ ac innocentuB ttpuritati 
in qua eras, quando baptizatus fuistu Ita quod iibi 
decedenti clause sint p^^rtOR posnarumy et aperta sint 
janwB parcuKsi deliciarum. Quod si mm morieris, 
salva sit ista gratia^ quando alias fueris in mortis 
articulo. In nomine Patris, Filii^ et Spiritus Sancti 

The reader has been able to judge, from the 
facts we have just laid before him, what have been 
the consequences of sacerdotal confesaon to mo- 
rality, as well as to religion. By virtue of thoae 
two words, te absolvo, accompanied with a plenary 
indulgence, and a few pieces of money, people ob- 
tained forgiveness and remission of crimes, how^ 
ever enormous they might be, even so as to be 
restored to the same state of innocence and purity as 
that in which they were after they had received bap* 
Hsm; so that this absolution stopped you on the one 
hand upon the threshold of the gates of hell, and, 
on the other, opened to you the] gates of a delightful 
paradise, whatever might be the period of your death. 

This woidd, perhaps, be the place to enter into 
some details concerning those numerous dispensa- 
tions which the court of Bome has gradually re- 
served to itself, in order to increase its power and 
riches; but, in order to avoid prolixity, we shall 
remain satisfied with producing the opinion of a 


saint — a man celebrated in ecclesiastical annals — 
which will suffice to annihilate all such preten- 
dons. It was in the twelfth century, that Saint 
Bernard said to such as were simple enough to 
ask the pope for indulgences : " But why do you 
ask his permission in order that what is not per- 
mitted may become permitted? You want to do 
what is not permitted; but what was not per- 
mitted was wrong — and yet you have asked per- 
mission to do wrong... .What! has that ceased to 
be wrong, or has it become less wrong because 
the pope has permitted it? And who knows 
whether it be not wrong to consent to wrong? "* 

* S. Bern., Epist. 7, ad Adam. mon. 




The primitive Churcli admitted, in its peni- 
tentiary system, two kinds of punishments, one 
temporal, and the other eternal. To obtain salva- 
tion, it was necessary for sinners to submit first to 
the temporal penance imposed and determined by 
the canons of the ChurcL As to everlasting 
punishment, it was remitted by God alone, who, 
touched with a sincere repentance, pardoned the 
offences committed against Him. Later, the 
bishops and popes altered this penitential system ; 
this happened about the seventh century. In 
place of the severe penance prescribed by the 
ancient canons, they substituted prayers, works, 
and practices easy to perform. Priests, in attri- 
buting to themselves, even to the exclusion of 


God, the right of retaining and remitting, and, at 
the same time, that of inflicting a penalty, allowed 
themselves also to alter, mitigate, replace, and 
compensate these penalties even by retributions — 
that is, what they called indulgences. 

It is needless to remark that indulgences sprang 
from sacerdotal confession, which, grounded on 
divine right, may dispose everything for the ad- 
vantage and interests of the Church. The admis- 
sion of purgatory must, as one may imagine, have 
produced the same results, especially in a pecuni- 
ary point of view. This is, at all events, the 
opinion of a learned theologian who wrote about 
four hundred years ago : " All Catholics," says he, 
**believe in the existence of purgatory ; yet there is 
no mention made of it among the ancients, or at 
all events very rarely : the Greeks even up to the 
present time do not believe in it. There was no 
mention made of indulgences as long as there was 
no question of purgatory ; for on this depends all 
the importance of indulgences. What is the use 
of indulgences, if you do away with purgatory? 
Indulgences began therefore at the moment when 
people were afraid of the torments of heU."* 

* Polyd. Virgil, de rerum invent., lib. viii., c. 1. — (Poly- 
dore Virgil, born at Urbino about 1470, took orders, and 
professed polite literature at Bologna. Being sent to Eng- 
land by Pope Alexander VI. to receive the "Peter's pence," 
he was much favoured both by Henry VII. and Henry 


It was about the oommencement of the ninth 
century that indulgences began to be multiplied. 
In the beginning, they were granted equally by 
all the bishops of Christendom : at first they were 
given only for the remission of canonical or tern* 
poral penalties, and not for everlasting punish- 
ments, as was afterwards the case ; for the ancient 
belief of the Church was, that the latter could be 
remitted only through the merits of Jesus Christ, 
or those of the saints and the MthfuL These are 
what were called the treasurers of the Church. 
But the popes, thinking they possessed the same 
divine grace, through the effect of their omrdt^ 
cience, infallibility and sanctity, were so bold as to 
grant indulgences by which they equally remitted 
temporal and eternal punishments. They have 
found theologians and even saints who have ap- 
proved and defended this impious doctrine. We 
may quote Saint Thomas of Aquinas, who says: 
" The guardian and dispenser of this precious trea- 
sure is the Koman pontiff, and he has, consequently 
the power to assign to every one, as he shall think 
fit, a portion of this exhaustless source of grace, 
which may be applied with propriety to the guilty, 
and is sufficient to deliver them from all their 

Vin., and in 1507 became Archdeacon of Wells. In 1550, 
he obtained permission to return to his native city, where he 
died m or before 1555. — Transl.) 


When this omnipotence of the popes, which — so 
tiiey say— emanated from Jesus Christ, had become 
prevalent throughout Christendom, the popes re- 
served exclusively to themselves, and to the detri- 
ment of the other bishops, the right of granting 
indulgences, in order to acquire for themselves 
alone the vast wealth collected throughout the 
Christian world. Thus it was, by the abolition of 
the ancient canonical and penitential discipline, 
that those monstrous abuses increased which, by 
fiBU2ilitating the pardon of all sorts of irregularities 
and crimes, augmented their number. It was 
especially in the commencement of the eleventh 
century that the concessions of indulgences became 
more frequent. Pope Victor III. made a success- 
ful use of them in 1087. Desirous of making war 
on the Saracens, he managed to raise a large army 
in Italy, by promising his soldiers the remission of 
all their sins, — sub remissione peccatorum otnnivm. 
Urban II., struck with the success of such a po- 
licy, provoked, in 1096, the first crusade against 
the Mahometans, the possessors of the Holy Land. 
The councils came to the support of this system, 
as we see in that of Clermont and in the first oecu- 
menical one of Latran, in which indulgences were 
granted to those who were going to fight against 
the Saracens of Spain. 

The same distribution of indulgences was prac- 
tised, in the two following centuries, for similar 


reasons, such as the extirpation of the heretics. 
Thus, crimes were pardoned on condition of com- 
mitting greater enormities. Such have been, more 
than once, the results of sacerdotal confession. 
Alexander IIL, especially, multiplied indulgences 
with boundless liberality. " He distributed," says 
Baronius, on the first Simday in every month, ** as 
many indulgences as there are grains in two hand- 
fills of sand."* 

Another pope, Boniface IX., showed the same 
kind of generosity, accompanied with an inordinate 
love of money. " I do not think," says Theodoric 
Niem, " there ever was a man who sought to pro- 
cure money in such an ingenious but dishonest 
manner as Boniface IX. ... He sent collectors 
throughout Christendom, charged with selling in- 
dulgences. They thus extorted, in a very short 
time, vast sums of money, which sometimes 
amounted, for a single province, to a hundred 
thousand florins. Everybody was eager to buy 
the remission of his sins, without doing penance."t 
..." He invaded the wealth of the Templars on 
all sides."t 

During the long schism which desolated the 

* Similiter concessit Alexander III., primis dominicalibiu 
mensium, tantam indulgentiani quantam arenam capere 
potuit cum ambabos manibus. — (Baron., Annal., an. 1177.) 

t Hist, schism, papist., quoted by Poter. 

X Templariorum bona ubique diripuit. — (Platina,) 


Churcli, popes and anti-popes were seen to grant 
indulgences to their partisans, whilst they excom- 
municated their adversaries. Alexander VL used 
with success this treasure of the Church to pay the 
army which he destined to the conquest of Ko- 
magna. It assisted Julius 11. and Leo X. to 
raise the superb basilica of Saint Peter. These 
popes caused indulgences to be preached through- 
out Christendom, with permission to eat eggs and 
cheese, to those who would give money for this 
pious work, and they formed this tax upon con- 
sciences, in order the sooner and more easily to 
receive the amoimt. We may judge what enor- 
mous sums must have been raised by the sale of 
indulgences delivered for the construction of so 
vast and magnificent a monument. The popes 
granted also the same favour for the erection of 
certain churches; reserving to themselves, how- 
ever, a share of the amoimt. Mariana relates, 
in his History of Spain, "that Pope Paul 11. 
having granted an indulgence to such as would 
give a certain suin of money, the richest were taxed 
at four crowns, smaller fortunes at three, and the 
poor at two, on condition that two-thirds of the 
receipts should be employed in the construction of 
the grand church of Segovia, and that the other 
third should be paid into the treasury of the court 

* Adjectalege, ut confectse duobus tertiis in struendam 


These Christians, in order to popularise and 
propagate their religion, adopted, ahnost without 
any exception, the practices of paganism, sanctify- 
ing and modifying them according to their own 
dogmas and principles. Thus it was that they 
adopted the pilgrimages in use in almost all the 
religions of antiquity. This practice, considered 
in a religious point of view, has the great advan- 
tage of exciting piety, and stiU more frequently, 
fanaticism, by the allurement of novelty and 
curiosity, to which man is so naturally inclined: 
accordingly, pilgrimages were in great vogue 
among the Christians as among the Pagans. The 
sixth of the good works, prescribed in the law of 
Zoroaster, consists in making a journey annually 
to the principal temple of Tou^PagSy in order 
there to pray to God.* The Chinese make 
pilgrimages upon their mountains. There are 
several places in the Indies which attract a great 
concourse of pilgrims. Hurdwar and Juggernaut 
are especially celebrated on this account. Pil- 
grims repair in crowds to this first city of Tartary, 
from Persia, from all the provinces of Asia, from 
the Island of Ceylon, and from Arabia: never 
was there a greater concourse at Jerusalem or 
Home. Sinners wash in the Ganges to obtaiD 

templi maximi Segobiensis collectis, pars tertia ipsi pontifici 
servaretur. — (Mariana, Histor. Hispan.) 
* Sad-Der, porte 6. 


the remission of their sins ; devotees acquire new 
merits by touching that water. Juggernaut, 
situated at the mouth of the same river, is a 
place equally favourable to the sanctification of 
souls, but penance there is more arduous and 
severe: there it is, indeed, that unfortunate 
wretches, to secure celestial bliss, get themselves 
crushed under the colossal chariot bearing the 
statue of Ejischna. 

It is well known that the Greeks and Romans 
went on pilgrimages to temples of renown, with 
the conviction that their prayers and sacrifices 
would be received by the gods more favourably 
in those privileged places than in ordinary temples. 
To obtain these favours, crowds went from Europe 
and Asia to the Temple of Diana, at Ephesus ; to 
that of Apollo, at Delphi; to that of Ceres, in 
Sicily, &c. We will not speak of the pilgrimages 
prescribed by the law of Islamism. It is at 
Mecca that they find the road which leads to 

Pilgrimages, as a remission of sins and a means 
of salvation, were in use in Christendom even in 
the earliest ages, since Saint Jerome speaks of 
them in these terms : — " Though the Britons be 
separated jfrom our world by the ocean, yet, those 
among them who have made any progress in re- 
ligion, forsaking the remote climes of the west, 
visit those sacred places at Jerusalem which they 



know only by name and from the Scriptures."* 
Xot only were very great merits attached to the 
visiting of the tombs of the martyrs, but in the 
eighth century they carried things still further, 
by granting the remission of sins to whosoever 
would visit the sepulchre of Jesus Christ, the tombs 
of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, or even other persons 
celebrated in the annals of Catholicism. This 
practice had become so much a point of faith, that 
it was observed by princes, nobles, nay by the 
people, by bishops, priests, monks, and nuns. The 
greatest sinners were even enjoined to lead a 
wandering life, in the manner of Cain, or rather of 
the priests of Cybele. 

The court of Rome found in this kind of pe- 
nance, substituted for the canonical regulations of 
the primitive Church, a twofold advantage : that 
of dispensing, by means of a contribution, such as 
were utterly unable to perform the penance im- 
posed upon them, as well as those who had, through 
inconsiderate devotion, made a vow to go on these 
pilgrimages: and, secondly, that of enticing to 
Rome, ad Umince apostolorum^ with the bait of in- 
dulgences, a considerable concourse of foreigners. 
The bishops and monks had brought these pil- 
grimages into vogue in certain other churches, 
such as those of Saint Juan de Compostella, in 

♦ Hieronim., Epist. 17. 


Spain, of Tours In Prance, and Nostra Signora di 
Loretto in Italy. More than two hundred thou- 
sand pilgrims, women, and children, went often 
four hundred leagues to visit the santa casa in 
which the Holy Virgin was bom, betrothed, and 
married. There was a time when the concourse 
of penitents was so very considerable at the con- 
vent of Notre Dame, near the towns of Assiai 
and Perugia, that as many as a hundred thousand 
pilgrims were seen crowding to visit the church of 
this convent, belonging to the Franciscans, on the 
days of the festival of Notre Dame des Anges. 

The considerable profits which those towns, as 
well as the clergy, derived from this practice, drew 
the attention of the popes, who from their position 
and powerful influence, contrived to concentrate 
them almost exclusively in Rome. They excited 
the fervour of the penitents by the numerous in- 
dulgences attached to the stations or visits made 
in different churches. According to the book of 
stations of Kome, there are every day in the year, 
in the church of Saint John of Latran, forty-eight 
days, and forty-eight times forty days of indul- 
gences, with the remission of one-third part of all 
kinds of sins, and as much in the churches of Saint 
Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Mary Major, Saint Lau- 
rence, Saint Sebastian, and in that of the Holy 
Cross of Jerusalem. A hundred years of indul- 
gences may be gained in the church of Area- 


Coeli ; and four hundred years in that of Saint 

Bernard Conno relates, in the third part of his 
History of Milan, that in 1391, the Milanese being 
unable to go and earn indulgences at Rome, on 
account of the war, Boniface IX. granted to the 
city of Milan the same indulgences as those which 
had been given to Rome ; namely, that every sub- 
ject of Graspare Visconti should be absolved from 
all his sins, even though he were neither repentant 
nor confessed, si ancke non fosse contrito ne con- 
fesso ; on condition of sojourning ten consecutive 
days at Milan, of visiting five churches every day, 
and of offering to the church dedicated to the 
Holy Virgin two-thirds of the expense he would 
have incurred by going to Rome, of which obla- 
tion two parts were to remain the property of that 
church, and the other to be for the pope. 

If the facts related by the two authors I have 
just quoted — ^but whom I cannot warrant, having 
been unable to procure their writings — be exact, it 
must be owned that this invention of sacerdotal 
confession and absolution, which maintains the 
sinner in a saintly quietude, is not less comfortable 
to the patient than lucrative to the physician. 

Moreover, the churches we have just named are 
not the only ones which enjoy this kind of privi- 
lege ; there are few in Rome, in all Italy, and 
especially in Spain, that have not obtained the 


same favours from some of the popes. We gene- 
rallj find in those churches certam privileged 
altars^ at which a remission of sins^ more or less 
extensive, may be obtained, not only for the living, 
but also for the dead, pro defunctis. To obtain it, 
it suflices to hear mass there, to receive the com- 
munion, or to recite a few prayers. The mercies 
of the Church are so abundant in Spain, that 
there is not a town publishing a newspaper where 
we do not find in the first column of it: To- 
day a soul is released from purgatory in such a 
church: Hoy se saca anima. This I have seen 
advertised wherever there exists a newspaper in 
that monkish country. 

Urban IL ventures so far as to assert that in- 
dulgences granted by the popes, for certain pil- 
grimages, may replace true penitence.* The Coun- 
cil of Clermont is no less precise on this subjectf 

Confessors could give particular indulgences in 
their spiritual jurisdiction and in the tribunal of 
penance, according to the axiom ejusdem est ligare 
et solvere : he who can bind can also loose. " The 
bishops gave forty days of indulgences, and the 
cardinals a hundred." It is to be presumed that, 

* Monemus igitur et exhortamur in Domino, et in remis- 
sionem peccatorum injungimus. ... Si in vera pcenitentia 
decesserunt, et peccatorum indulgentiam et fructum setemae 
mercedis se non dubitent habituros. 

t Iter illud pro omni pcenitentia ex reputetur. 


like the popes, they did not grant such favours 
gratuitously. As to the pope, their generosity 
was limited by no law. "It belongs but to the 
pope alone, who represents Jesus Christ, to grant 
indulgences of one hu^dred, two hundred, or even 
several thousand years, even as it is determined 
by different concessions of the popes; and by other 
canons, at different times and places, and for dif- 
ferent reasons."* 

These indulgences were multiplied, adinfmtwfn^ 
especially by the concessions made to the monks^ 
who did not fail to turn them to their own advan- 
tage. Thus, when the Inquisitors made an auto- 
da-fe^ they announced to the people that the per- 
sons present at this ceremony and at the lecture 
on the faith, pronounced by the Inquisitor, would 
earn the customary indulgences.t They were 
likewise obtained by wearing the habit of a mo- 
nastic order, the girdle of Saint Francis, a sca- 
pulary, a chapelet, a medal, a consecrated image, 
the wood of the true cross, or the relics of 
such a saint; by vigdting such a church or some 

* Non valent cardinales ultra centum dies indulgentioe. 
Soli papse, Christus potest illam tot dierum et annorum mille 
millium indulgentiam concedere. Quails reposita reperitur 
in diversis concessionibus, summorum pontificum vel alioruin 
sub variis temporibus, locis, causis. — (Gerson, Opusc, de 

t Directorium Inquisitor, part. iii. 


priyileged calvary; by reciting a prayer given 
in honour of the Virgin Mary, or some other 
saint, &c 

It is, therefore, not surprising to see this tor- 
rent of indulgences — ^which took its source in 
auricular confession, and leffc, in its course, a 
golden deposit upon the sacerdotal domain — in- 
crease in so prodigious a manner. But the ad- 
vantages were too great not to give rise to for- 
gery. Accordingly we find, from the canons of 
the councils, that the bishops, and especially the 
monks, forged indulgences, or reproduced such as 
had been granted only for a limited period or 
for a particular circumstance. Forgers imagined 
bulls of indulgences which they sold to the 

Indulgences were not identified solely with 
bodies inert or fashioned with the hand into 
bones and the remains of the bodies of men cele- 
brated in the annals of Christianity, to which a 
ready homage was paid. Living persons were 
also visited, whose daily existence was miraculous. 
Such was Saint Simeon Stylites, who remained 
standing for forty years upon a column of several 
cubits, scarcely taking any food, and even totally 
abstaining from it during the forty days of Lent 
The author of the life of this saint informs us 
**that a great concourse of people came to see 
him from the farthest confines of the West, 



particularly from Spain, Gaul, and Great Bri- 

We find in the Abbe Saiicet^QAntidotariusAmmiB, 
indulgences of every description. The books and 
rules of the different brotherhoods make us ac- 
quainted with a great variety of them. Therein 
we find calendars in which is indicated for most 
days in the year a remission of sins for such as 
perform certain devotions, as the visiting certain 
churches, the reciting of a certain number of 
Paters and Aves^ or the hearing of mass in ap- 
pointed places and at the altar of such a saint. 

Fleury makes us perceive how absurd is the 
system of the redemption of sins by means of in- 
dulgences and pilgrimages, when he says : " Ca- 
nonical punishments had been rendered imprac- 
ticable by being multiplied according to the 
number of sins, whence had arisen the invention 
of conmauting them in order to redeem whole 
years of them in a few days; besides the com- 
pensation of penance, pilgrimages to BrOme, Com- 
postella, or Jerusalem, had long been employed." t 
The same author acknowledges the irregu- 
larities resulting from pilgrimages, when he says : 
" As early as the ninth century, people com- 
plained of several abuses that had crept into it 

* Theodoret, Vie de Sim Styl., c. 26. 
f Fleury, Sisi. Disc, No. 2. 


Criminal priests and clerks pretended to be there- 
by purified and ** re-habilitated," Lords availed 
themselves of it to practise exactions on their sub- 
jects to contribute to the expenses of the journey ; 
and it was a pretext for the poor to beg and live 
a vagabond life. Certain among them used to 
overrun the country, naked and loaded with 
chainsy exciting the horror of everybody ; and it 
is true that, for homicide and other atrocious 
crimes, penitents had sometimes been commanded 
to live also a wandering life, bearing the signs of 
their misery. But never were pilgrimages so cele- 
brated as since the eleventh century. Universal 
hostilities having subsided, and pilgrims being 
considered as sacred persons, everybody would go 
to places of devotion, even princes and kings. 
King Robert passed every Lent in pilgrimageiss, 
and performed the journey to Kome. Bishops 
made no scruple to leave their churches for the 
same object. The pilgrimage to Jerusalem, among 
others, became very frequent about the year 

Experience has proved that all these practices, 
very lucrative to the clergy, so far from being use- 
fid to religion and morals, have only served to 
corrupt them. Boniface, Archbishop of Mayence, 
wrote in the year 740 to the Archbishop of Can- 

* Moeurs des Chretiens, No. 43. 


terbury^ and exhorted him to prevent the nuns 
and lay-sisters of England from leaving their 
country and going on prilgrimages to Rome, be- 
cause those women became corrupted before they 
returned to their own country, and many of them 
became common women and harlots in the cities 
of France or Italy.* In ages of ignorance and 
superstition, nations, ever submissive to the autho- 
rity of the priesthood, and swayed according to 
their interests, believed, conformably to the doc- 
trine they were taught, that the visiting a tomb 
and pronouncing a few words over it sufficed to 
redeem all their sins, and dispense them from ful- 
filling their duties as Christians. This is demon- 
strated by the 45th canon of the second council of 
Chalons, held in 818 : " They fall into a serious 
error," says this council, " who, imder pretence of 
praying, repair inconsiderately to Rome or Tours. 
Priests or deacons who lead a dissolute Ufe, believe 
they fulfil the functions of their ministry and ob- 
tain the remission of their sins, by going to visit 
those places. Even so, laymen imagine they sin 
or have sinned with impunity, se impune aut pec- 
care^ aut peccdsse^ because they go to pray in those 
places. It is under the pretence of these pilgrim- 
ages that the mighty authorize themselves to 
acquire riches by oppressing the people, multa 

" Spelrn. Concil., t. i., p. 237. 


acqtdrunt, multos pauperum opprimunt. They af- 
fect to visit holy places from piety, whereas they 
are swayed only by avarice. There are paupers 
whose only aim is to procure themselves more 
abundant ahns, ut majorem habeant materiam men-- 
dicandi. Some there are, who, wandering about 
to every part, pretend to be going to those places, 
and who are so insensate that they imagine they 
are absolved from all their sins by merely behold- 
ing those holy places : utputent se sanctorum loco^ 
rum sola visione a peccatis purffari* 

Never did a philosopher more truly state the 
inconveniences and fatal consequences arising from 
the institution of confession, than the canon of the 
council which we have just produced. Instead of 
repressing crime, it has authorized to sin with im- 
punity, impune peccare ; it has countenanced injus- 
tice and violence among the powerful, rmdtos 
pauperum opprimunt; it has encouraged idleness 
and mendicity, materiam mendicandi; and lastly it 
has tranquillized the conscience of the criminal 
and appeased his remorse, by securing him impu- 
nity for his crimes by the performance of com- 
mon-place or insignificant practices, sanctorum 
locorum visione. The fatal effects of this species 
of vagrancy, known under the name of pilgrim- 
age, were so keenly felt by civil authority in dif- 

* Concil. CabHion., can. 45. 


ferent countries, that it has endeavoured to repress 
them by penal laws : this is what happened more 
than once in France, and noticeably in 1738, when 
" Every Frenchman was forbidden to go on any 
pilgrimage out of the kingdom, without a permis- 
sion from the king, upon pain of being sent to the 

Canonical punishments had fallen almost into 
desuetude, through the effect of indulgences and 
pilgrimages, when the crusades, far more meritori- 
ous than the latter, gave, as Fleury expresses it, 
the mortal blow to ancient discipline. These two 
causes of destruction proceeded equally from the 
opinion which prevailed in Christendom during 
those periods of ignorance and superstition : people 
then believed that penance, whatever it might be, 
could, being imposed by a priest, absolve from 
every crime, even from those committed during 
the time this very penance was being performed. 
"As long as the crusades lasted," says Fleury, 
" they served in lieu of penance, not only for those 
who took the cross voluntarily, but even for all 
great criminals, to whom the bishops gave absolu- 
tion only on condition of serving in person for a 
certain time in the Holy Land, or of maintaining 
there a certain number of armed men."t It was 

* Repertoire de Jurisprudence (mot Pelerinage), 
t Fleury, Disc, sur THist. Eccles., disc, vi., n. 11. 


this &tal opinion which led the crusaders to give 
themselves up to debauchery, to pillage, and to 
commit violence, and even to massacre Christians 
as well as Mahometans. 

Accordingly, we find that the popes knew how 
to take advantage of a means so serviceable to the 
increase of their power, and to the establishment 
of their dominion over all the nations of Christen- 
dom — ^a means equally efficacious with religious 
men and with those who set no bounds to their 
passions. Fleury, who was unwilling to unfold to 
his readers what was most criminal in the conduct 
of the crusaders, describes them as follows: "They 
were, in a manner of speaking, raw sinners, who, 
without any conversion of heart or any previous 
preparation, except perhaps some indifferent con- 
fession, went, for the expiation of their sins, to 
expose themselves to the most dangerous chances 

of committing new ones. We must confess that 

the crusade served as a pretext to people who had 
debts, not to pay them ; to malefactors, to escape 
the punishment due to their crimes; to unruly 
monks, to quit their cloister ; to corrupted women, 
to continue more freely their irregularities, for 
some of them followed those armies, and a few 
were disguised as men. Nay, in the very army of 
Saint Louis, in his quarter, and near his tents, 
places devoted to licentiousness were to be found."* 
* Fleury, Disc, sur THist. Eccl6s., disc, vi., n. 11. 


The same author thus expresses himself in another 
work : " Accordingly, it is certain, from the testi- 
mony of historians, that the armies of the crusaders 
were not only like other armies, but still worse ; 
that all sorts of vices prevailed therein, both such 
as the pilgrims had brought with them from their 
own country and those they had learnt abroad. 
Lastly, if those voyages served to correct a few 
sins, they were much less those of the Latin 
Christians than of the Schismatics, for whom they 
were terrible scourges of God. A great number 
of bishops, priests, and monks, took the cross; 
some, urged by genuine zeal, several by liber- 
tinism, and they believed themselves authorised to 
carry arms against the infidels."* 

We count eight crusades undertaken to effect 
the conquest of a tomb of which there remain no 
more vestiges than of those of Moses or Zoroas- 
ter; and those wars — ^impious because unjust — 
ended only in causing the slaughter of several 
millions of victims, either innocent or led astray 
by religious fanaticism. But the policy of the 
popes did not halt before such considerations, 
when the point in question was what it termed 
the glory of God and the interests of the Church — 
a powerful lever, the latter — ^the effect of which 
has been multiplied a hundred-fold by means of 

* rieury, Mociirs des Cliret. 


auricular confession and indulgences. Thus it 
was that^ armed with the sign of the cross^ it 
managed to form those numerous crusades in the 
name of God : in the East^ against the Mahome- 
tans; in Spain, against the Moors; in Saxony, 
Prussia, Livonia, and other northern coimtries, 
agsunst the pagans; in Germany, against the 
Stadings and other heretics; in France, against 
the Vaudois and Albigenses; in short, against 
whatever kings or people refused to acknowledge 
its usurpations or haughty dominion. Thus, also, 
it excited multitudes of people against each other; 
princes against princes, and Christians against 
Christians, whoever they might be : it cared little 
when the question was to effect its purpose. 

The first crusade, preached in 1093, and com- 
manded by a fanatical ignorant monk, was com- 
posed of eighty thousand vagrants, who pillaged 
and devastated all the places on their passs^e, 
even before they had reached the land of the in- 
fidels. They besieged, took, and ransacked a city 
of Hungary; soon after, being attacked by the 
Bulgarians, their army was reduced to twenty 
thousand men; and this remnant was exterminated 
by Solyman. The other chiefs of the second ex- 
pedition, at the head of an army of a hundred 
thousand knights and eighty thousand foot, took 
Nice, and afterwards Jerusalem, the inhabitants 
of which they massacred ; doubtless to avenge, on 


the Mahometans, the blood of Jesus Christ shed 
by the Jews. But Solyman, who retook this city 
after a possession of ninety-nine years by the 
Europeans, gave the latter a noble example of 
humanity in sparing the lives of the inhabitants. 

The second crusade was preached by another 
monk, a race at all times devoted to the orders of 
Kome. This man, quite as fanatical as Peter the 
Hermit, but far more intelligent and shrewd, re- 
fused to be the commander of this holy militia: 
he confined his part to preaching, confessing, and 
promising indulgences ; he, however, ventured so 
far as to predict, in the name of God, a success 
that was far from being realised; for this new 
army, composed of three hundred thousand indivi- 
duals, was destroyed by debauchery or by the 
sword of the enemy. 

The popes, who never retreat before reverses or 
obstacles, provoked a third, fourth, and fifth cru- 
sade. The army produced by the latter departs 
in the name of Jesus Christ, arrives before Con- 
stantinople, takes, and pUlages that city, and exer- 
cises every kind of cruelty upon those for the 
faith of whom they had come to fight. Pope In- 
nocent III. approved of this conquest, thinking 
that it would serve to extend his power. *^ Those 
people," said he, "are obstinate schismatics, chil- 
dren of the church, who have been in revolt 
against her for several centuries, and deserve to 


be chastised. If the dread of our arms bring them 
hack to their duty, well and good ; if not, they 
must be exterminated and the country repeopled 
with Catholics." 

After a few other successes, being enfeebled by 
their own divisions and the plague, or by fighting, 
the remainder of this army sought their safety in 

The sixth crusade, still provoked by the monks, 
in 1219, saw the Christians, masters of Jerusalem, 
make a treaty, in which it was stated that the 
temple of Jesus Christ should serve the Mussul- 
mans for a mosque. At length all these crusades, 
after having been undertaken at different periods 
by the obstinacy of the Popes, and having lasted 
the space of two hundred years, ceased through 
the exhaustion of means and the impossibility of 
success, after having caused the slaughter of five 
or six millions of persons — a, religious war alto- 
gether unprecedented in the annals of Pagan 
nations. There is room for astonishment, when, 
seeking the primitive and principal cause of such 
awful calamities, we find it to be in sacerdotal 

Victor IIL, elected pope in 1086, taught the 
court of Rome what power it might acquire by 
provoking princes and kings against one another. 
Supported by the Countess Matilda and Roger 
of Sicily, he excited a civil war, which brought 


many woes upon Italy. He devised an enter- 
prise against the Saracens of Afiica, which may 
be considered as a crusade. That was^ in a man- 
ner of speaking, the signal of the crusades, which, 
as we have said, commenced imder his successor, 
Urban 11. 

We should stray from our subject were we to 
undertake to speak of the numerous crusades 
raised by the popes against Pagans, Mahometans, 
princes, and nations, whether heretical or othodox; 
or were we to enumerate the rebellions, civil wars, 
crimes, and woes, occasioned throughout Christen- 
dom by the terror of excommunications, or by the 
enticement of the indulgences granted to such as 
would fight against the enemies of Rome or con- 
tribute to defray the expenses of those wars. 
Never had a power at its disposal such easy means 
of raising armies and of providing for their sup- 
port, and even of filling them with courage ; for 
the popes could inspire them at pleasure with re- 
li^ous fanaticism, which rushes blindly into the 
jaws of death. 

The policy of Rome, relatively to the subject 
before us, has long been acknowledged by enlight- 
ened men. This is Pasquier's opinion of it: — 
" Ever since the period of the crusades, the popes, 
entertaining private enmities against certain sove- 
reign princes, whenever they would be revenged 
on them, excommunicated them, then declared 


them heretics for want of absolution^ and, after all 
this, often caused crusades to be trumpeted against 
them, as if they had been infidels, in order that 
other princes might arm and seize on their prin- 
cipalities and kingdoms, which occasions an infinity 
of dissension, disturbance, and partiality in our 
Christendom. Nay more, when the courtiers of 
Borne wanted, imder false pretences, to amass an 
enormous amount of pence, they caused a crusade 
to be preached against the Turks ; and, to excite 
everybody to go or contribute to this holy league, 
the popes sent into every province several persons 
charged with their indulgences, in order to distri- 
bute them more or less plentifully, according to 
the amount of the sum they intended to bestow 
for the expedition of such enterprises, as, in fact, it 
happened imder Clement V."* 

The mmierous sources of wealth which resulted 
from the practices of which we have just spoken, 
were insufficient to quench the insatiable thirst of 
the court of Kome. In the fourteenth century it 
invented an institution that was very lucrative : it 
was indebted for it to Boniface VIII., who ini- 
tiated the secular games of ancient Rome, and be- 
lieved himself to be the more justified in doing so, 
that he found an analogous institution among the 
Jews. But, before speaking of the papal jubilee, 
let us see what was that of the Jews and Romans. 
* Kecherches, 1. v., ch. 21. 


The jubilee among the Jews, which returned 
every fifty years, far from bemg a financial specu- 
lation, had been legally ordained in order to favour 
the poor, re-establish equality, abolish slavery, 
and prevent the rich from getting possession of aQ 
the lands. The secular games of the Komans, so 
named because they were celebrated once in every 
hundred years, bore no analogy to the jubilee of 
the Jews and that of the Christians, excepting that 
they were a religious institution established after 
the expulsion of the Tarquins ; that in them they 
performed lustrations and sacrifices to the gods, 
together with processions, and that the people re- 
paired in crowds to the temples of Apollo and 
Diana, just as they repair in the modem jubilee to 
the cathedrals of Saint Peter and Saint PauL 
The Romans, whose festivals were characterised 
by the concourse and hilarity of the people, cele- 
brated their secular feasts with great solesmnity. 
The senate and the orders of the state appeared 
there in the insignia of their dignity. They were 
accompanied by the people, dressed in white, 
crowned with flowers, and holding palms in their 
hands. The statues of the gods reclined upon 
beds of state, placed in the vestibule of the tem- 
ples. It was from a religious sentiment, accom- 
panied with the allurement of pleasure, that the 
• Romans took part in their secular games. The 


Christians used to run to the jubUee from a heed- 
less notion of piety, accompanied with the hope of 
thus escaping the pams of helL Among the for- 
mer, all was joy and gladness. Choruses, com- 
posed of young boys and girls, chanted alternately 
hymns in honour of Apollo and Diana, composed 
by poets of the first rank; finally, this festival 
was accompanied with the games of the circus, the 
theatre, and the amphitheatre. 

Of all the jubilees practised among different 
races of people that which is in use in the King- 
dom of Laos, in Asia, bears the greatest analogy 
with the jubilee instituted by Papacy. However, 
it has this particular feature, that it returns every 
year, doubtless because the priests, who then dis- 
tribute indulgences, have found this frequent re- 
turn very advantageous to their interest. These 
priests, a race of monks named Talapoins^ receive 
the offerings which the people present, in emula- 
tion of one another, on visiting the temple in 
which stands the statue of their god Xaca. The 
Mexicans had also a celebrated jubUee, once in 
four years. They believed they received the re- 
mission of all their sins by attending it. 

It would be long to relate here the ceremonies 
practised in the jubilee instituted by Boniface 
VIIL But what gave it a prodigious vogue, was 
the plenary indulgence granted to every person 
who would go to Rome and visit the churches of 


Saint Peter and Saint Paul, after confessing his 
sins. We ought not, however, to omit the some- 
what fantastical ceremony which takes place be- 
fore the opening of the jubilee. It consists in 
breaking down and destroying a walled-up door, 
lateral with the grand portico of Saint Peter's 
Church. The pope, surrounded by his cardinals, 
bishops, and clergy, repairs, in his pontifical 
robes, to the portico of Saint Peter's, and after 
having chanted the Vtmi Creator, he strikes, with 
a golden hammer, the holy door three several times, 
saying, " Aperite mihi portas justiti<B^ " open me 
the gates of justice." The clergy reply, " This is 
the gate of the Eternal ; and the righteous shall 
enter." Then the masons set to work, and de- 
molish the wall which obstructs the entrance ; the 
door is then washed with consecrated water ; the 
pope kneels on the threshold, and then enters the 
church, where he strikes up the Te Deum. 

Another practice, no less remarkable, is for the 
people to ascend on their knees what they denomi- 
nate the scala santa, or holy ladder. It is a stair- 
case formed of twenty-eight steps of white marble, 
situated upon Mount Capitoline, at the summit of 
which is a chapel. They say — ^to those who will 
listen to them — ^that these are the identical steps 
by which Jesus Christ ascended to go to Pilate's 
house. This mode of ascent is painful, especially 
to the infirm ; but the jubilaires submit to it, for 


the sake of the new mercies which it affords thenu 
It is practised on ordinary occasions^ as we our- 
selves have witnessed several times. 

The periods, forms, and practices of the jubilee 
have imdergone some variation since the time of 
Benedict. This pope had fixed the celebration to 
return every hundred years. Sextus IV. and 
Paul, appointed it for every twenty-five years; 
but every pope grants, in addition, a jubilee in the 
year of his exaltation : so ihat we may calculate 
upon five or six jubilees in the space of twenty- 
five years. At those periods the city of Eome 
witnesses an immense distribution or sale of objects 
consecrated by the pope, or other things to which 
is attached some virtue, either compensative or 
preservative from sin, such as chapelets, medals, 
images, relics, agnuses, scapularies, diciplines, &c., 
with which all the shops of the Strada delle Coroney 
or street of chapelets, are abundantly provided. 
But the old illusion has generaUy faded away, and 
the same merit is no longer attached to all these 
things ; nay, the jubilee itself is considered by many 
persons only as a festival for the satisfaction of 
curiosity and for amusement. 

The year of the jubilee being come, the pope, 
after having solemnly oflSciated in Saint Peter's, 
chants an ancient hymn, beginning with these 
words : " Cum jucunditate exibitis " — " You shall 
go out with joy." Immediately, all present rush 



out precipitately through the sacred door. The 
pope afterwards blesses the stones and mortar 
which are to serve for walling up the door, and the 
masons do the rest, after he has laid the first stone. 
The pilgrims return home, but only after they 
have received the entire remission of their sins, 
through the virtue of a long wand with which the 
penitentiaries give them a blow. 

The reader may form an idea of the considerable 
concourse of strangers attracted to Rome, in the 
course of one year, by the enticement of a plenary 
indulgence for every crime, by reading what 
Muratori relates on this head, and the prodigious 
sums which it brought to the pope and the city of 
Brome. Giovanni Villani relates in his history, 
that not a single day passed in the course of that 
yearthattherewerenot inRome,besidesthe inhabit- 
ants of that city, two hundred thousand pilgrims: 
" Dugento mila di pellegrinV^ He adds further: 
" The offerings of the pilgrims procured the Church 
great riches, and all the Romans grew rich by the 
sale of their produce."* Other historians bear 
witness that the offerings of the faithful brought 
in enormous sums to Pope Boniface. This is 
likewise related by Guglielmo Ventura d'Asti, who 

* E dell' offerta fatta per li pellegrini molto tesoro ne 
crebbe alia chiesa, e Romani per le loro derrate furono tutti 


iad gone to Rome from devotion. "Leaving 
Borne,'' says he, " on the eve of the Nativity of 
Jesus Christ, I saw an immense multitude, which 
it was impossible to count : the Romans supposed 
it might amount to two hundred thousand persons, 
male and female. I then saw men and women 
trodden under foot by one another; and I myself 
incurred the same danger several times. The pope 
Tcceived from these persons incalculable sums ; for 
there were two priests, night and day, standing 
beside the altar of Saint Peter's, and furnished 
with rakes, gathering up enormous quantities of 
money."* Such were the benefits which the policy 
of the court of Rome managed to derive from sacer- 
dotal confession and indulgences. 

* Exiens de Roma in yigilia Nativitatis Christi, vidi tur- 
bam magnam, quam dinumerare nemo poterat. Et fama 
erat inter Komanos, quod ibi fuerunt vigenti centum millia 
virorum et mulierum. Plures ego vidi ibi tam viros quam 
mulieres, conculcatos sub pedibus aliorum, et etiam egomet 
in eodem periculo plures vices evasi. Papa innumerabilem 
pecuniam ab eisdem recepit, quia die ac nocte duo cleri asta- 
bant ab altare Sancti-Petri, tenentes in eorum manibus ras- 
tellos, rastellantes pecuniam infinitam. — (Murat., Antiq. 
Ital., disc, kviii., col. 764.) 





The changeB and innovations introduced into 
Christianism have constantly had for their aim to 
increase the riches and dominion of the clergy, 
especially those of papacy. The court of Kome 
strove for a long time, before it could render auri- 
cular confession obligatory. But at length it suc- 
ceeded, by giving it a sacramental character in a 
decree of the Council of Latran, foreseeing that, 
being thus constituted, it would be the strongest 
prop of its power. Indeed, it was by means of 
sacramental confession that it gave new force to 
its excommunications, established the inquisition, 
formed crusades against heretics and infidels, raised 
up subjects against their kings, and mutually en- 
slaved them by each other's means; it was by 


seizing with one hand the keys of heaven, and pre- 
sentmg with the other the remission of sins which 
affords the entrance or excommunication which 
banishes for ever. Thus was formed this colossal 
power, which has swayed the Christian world for 
80 many centuries. After being attacked ener- 
getically by the Reformation in the sixteenth cen- 
tnry, and by the philosophy of the eighteenth, it 
would be scarcely in existence at the present day, 
had it not been preserved by the policy of a few 
governments, which, thinking they have no longer 
any reason to dread it, have considered it as a 
useful instrument to maintain the despotism which 
they are unwilling to forego. For some it has 
been a safe port wherein the passions and anti- 
Christian vices might find shelter from remorse 
which otherwise would have troubled the con- 
science and inspired it with the dread of celestial 
vengeance; for others it was only a phantom, fit to 
overawe the multitude. 

Accordingly, we have seen princes who, through 
fanaticism or a policy as contrary to natural as to 
divine law, have inflicted punishments upon those 
who refused to go to the confessional; whereas 
other princes elsewhere, as was the case in the 
sixteenth century, caused priests and laymen to 
be hanged, the former for having heard confession, 
and the latter for having uttered it : a striking 
proof of the iniquity of all those coercive laws 


which prejudice, fanaticism, or an odious policy 
emits according to times, places, or circumstances. 
This kind of inquisitorial tyranny dates from the 
period of Theodosius, when emperors, selfnstyled 
Catholic, introduced laws against sin into civil 
constitutions to consolidate their despotism. They 
imported into their civil administration the canon 
law, an absurd jurisprudence, grounded upon acts 
and decisions falsely attributed to the apostles ; a 
system of deception unknown among the ancients. 

The Pagan religion was seldom an instrument 
of policy influencing all the actions of life. It was 
satisfied with making the oracles or soothsayers 
speak, when there was any question of enticiiig 
the people into determinations or enterprises which 
the heads of the government believed useful to the 
state ; but no punishment was inflicted on such as 
put no faith in those government measures. Thus, 
the general who cast into the sea the chickens 
which would not give a good omen of the war he 
was about to undertake, was not punished, not- 
withstanding the defeat he suffered on that oc- 

Do we not know the active part which con- 
fession, the dread of the refusal of absolution, and 
the horror of exconunxmication, took in the bloody 
disputes of the empire with the court of Bome, in 
the factions of the Guelfs and Ghibellines in 
Italy, in those of the league in France, in the 


massacres of Saint Bartholomew^ or in the re- 
ligious riots in England^ Ireland^ Germany^ &c. ; 
or how the priests, in those deplorable periods, 
granted or reused absolution, according as people 
belonged or were opposed to the party or faction 
which they themselves had embraced? Lastly, 
do we not know that it has become, in our own 
time, as active and fructifying a power as it ever 
was? By what enchantment have those populous 
convents been produced which now swarm in 
France — ^those riches which the clergy have accu- 
mulated in so short a time ; those littie seminaries, 
tiiose primary and secondary schools of both sexes, 
which are invading public instruction ; those esta- 
blishments, those funded properties, and those 
donations which have passed, as if by magic, from 
the hands of the laity into those of the secular and 
r^ular clergy ? 

But among the political evils resulting from 
auricular confession, we must put in the foremost 
rank the fatal influence it has had upon the minds 
and consciences of kings. If this institution had 
not a radical vice in itself, it might, perhaps, have 
been useful to bring into the paths of virtue and 
true religion the rulers of the destinies of nations. 
But experience shows that it has never attained 
that end, or at least only in a very slight manner, 
as is proved by the conduct of the kings who most 
frequently had recourse to the counsels of their 


confessors. This had been remarked by Erasmus^ 
when, after having spoken of the flatterers who 
surround kings, he adds these words : *^ For this 
evil there is a divine remedy, which, however, pro- 
duces no effect — ^we mean those who are vulgarly 
called confessors of kings. If those men were 
endued with integrity and prudence, they might 
give to princes, both secretly and freely, paternal 

The title of kingly confessor was unknown in 
the time of Charlemagne, and even during the 
reigns of several of his successors ; for kings did 
not then confess, and their subjects imitated gene- 
rally their example. This practice was confined 
to the convents. We find, however, that this 
palatial function existed in 947. Later, that is to 
say, at the period when confession had become 
sacramental, kings had titled confessors. But, as 
it would have been disagreeable to them to apply 
to the curate of their parish, conformably to the 
prescription of the Church, the popes, ever ready 
to grant favours to power, exempted kings from 

* Superat una sacra anchora quse et ipsa soepe fallit. 
Nimirum ii quos vulgus confessores rfegios vocat. B si 
integri forent ac prudentes, carte in illo altissimo secreto pas- 
sent amanter ac libere monere principem. Verum plenimque 
fit ut dnm suis quisque commodis studet, publicae utilitatis 
rationem negligat. — (Erasm., Instit. princip. de adolat vitand., 
c. 2.) 


this constraint. Philip the Fair is the first who 
obtained this dispensation. Still later^ that is to 
say, in 1498, the priests or bishops who were 
charged with the direction of the consciences of 
kings, received the name of auricular confessors. 

This duty having become important from the 
influence, credit, and power of those who per- 
formed it, was coveted equally by the secular and 
r^ular clergy ; but the latter obtained exclusive 
possession of the post. The Benedictins were the 
first ; then came the Franciscans and other men- 
dicant friars, who were succeeded by the Domini- 
cans; lastly, the Jesuits, more artful and under 
the interested protection of the popes, supplanted 
all their rivals, and remained masters of the field 
down to the period of their destruction. 

Louis XL had for preceptor and confessor a 
priest named Jean Major^ who made his pupil a 
wicked king and a malicious devotee. This king 
died, as is always the case with such people, in 
sentiments of a tardy repentance, leaving behind 
him the evil he had done and the scandal he 
had occasioned. 

Charles IX. terminated his sanguinary reign in 
the hands of a certain Armand Sorbie, bishop of 
Nevers, who comforted his conscience touching the 
Saint Bartholomew massacres, as Pope Gregory 
XIII. had already done. This same bishop is the 
man who had encouraged the Catholics to exter- 



minate the Protestants, and considered Henri IIL 
had acted meritoriously in putting himself at their 
head for the same purpose. This king had Father 
Matthieu, a Jesuit, for his confessor, who allowed 
him to indulge quietly in the most scandalous de- 
bauchery, and kept him to the practice of the 
most superstitious devotion. 

He had afterwards another confessor, named 
Jacques Colombo who confessed him, and gave him 
the communion six or seven days after he had 
caused the Duke de Guise and his brother, the 
cardinal, to be assassinated. The same confessor, 
who had justified him in his criminal conduct, 
armed against him Jacques Clement, a Domini- 
can, who, dagger in hand, put an end to his de- 
bauchery and his life. Such are the benefits of a 
confession so much vaunted by politicians, and 
which is considered by some kings as the safe- 
guard of their thrones. If these instances be not 
sufficient, we might mention the service it did 
Henri IV. and Louis XV. 

*^A11 who are acquainted with history," says 
Dulaure, **are convinced that the confessors of 
the court served Cardinal Richelieu not only as 
spies, but that they were the instruments most 
commonly employed by that cardinal to direct the 
opinions of eminent persons." Since Henri IV., 
the Jesuits had had the direction of royal con- 
sciences in their possession. An author of the 


age of Louis XIIL thinks it very proper that 
this monarch should have Jesuits for spies; but 
he declares he ought not to entrust them with his 

** Sire," says he, *Hhe public earnestly wish that 
your Majesty would, in this matter, be pleased 
to imitate the vnsdom of the popes and the pru- 
dence of the kings of Spain, who certainly make 
use of these good fathers as spies, in order to dis- 
cover, by their interference, the secrets of others ; 
but they take good care not to declare their own 
to them, in order not to be dependent on them, or 
to enable them to play double. For this reason, 
no Jesuit hitherto has had the honour of confess- 
ing their majesties, or the infants and infantas.... 
Your majesty ought to take example from this, 
sire, and consider the inconveniences into which 
France has fallen, and into which your majesty 
may likewise fall, by making the confessions of 
the Louvre hereditary in the family of the Jesuits, 
as is the empire in the house of Austria."* 

But let us see what it produced during the 
reign of the great king (Louis XIV.), for the 
glory of his throne, the happiness of his subjects, 
and the prosperity of his states. The prince, 
who, thanks to his confessors, knew how to ally 
devotion with libertinism and policy, related to 

♦ La Voix Publique au Roi, 1624, p. 22. 


one of his mistresses how much his confessor had 
cahned his conscience, which had been alarmed at 
the oppression and pillage of his people, by as- 
suring him that ^he was the master of all that his 
subjects possessed How can we be surprised 
afterwards, if the despot, in the intoxication of 
his omnipotence, should exclaim with assurance: 
" The state is myself I ^ Had not the Sorbonne, 
in order to humour him, classed in the catalogue 
of mortal sins, any diminution, however trifling it 
might be, of the exorbitant taxes imposed upon 
the people, to pay mistresses, courtiers, favourites, 
and an army raised at great expense to increase 
the glory, power, and dominions of this most 
Catholic king ? 

What are we to think of the religion of a king 
who deprives the clergy of France of what he had 
granted them, being directed entirely by his own 
interests and deceitful policy ? Thus, after having 
erected into a law of the state the declaration of 
the French clergy in 1686, he wrote as follows to 
Pope Innocent XIL, in order to give more power 
to the party opposed to the Protestants : ^* I have 
issued the necessary orders that the things con- 
tained in my edict of the 2nd of March, 1686, 
concerning the declaration made by the French 
clergy, to which I had been obliged by past 
emergencies, be not put in force." It was Father 
Lachaise, the king's confessor, who provoked a 


decision so fkvourable to the court of Rome. 
This Jesuit, devoted body and soul to papacy, 
intrigued with Madame de Maintenon and Lou- 
vois, and managed to get the revocation of the 
edict of Nantz ; a revocation as fatal to France as 
favourable to the power of the court of Rome. 
This confessor, so clever in promoting the interests 
of that court, knew equally well how to reconcile 
devotion with the libertinism of his penitent. 

It was a subject of opprobrium to the citizens, 
to see the palace of kings frequented by mis- 
tresses, who appeared amid the priests, even in 
the place where their august lover came to make 
a pompous display of his piety. But, no matter ; 
the absolution of Father Lachaise authorized this 
spectacle: adultery received the homage of the 
court, and the confessor showed himself humbly 
in public — riding in his carriage drawn by six 

Le Tellier, another Jesuit, succeeded Father 
Lachaise, but, as according to canonical rules, he 
we^a unable to fulfil this office, it was granted him, 
though with regret, by Cardinal de Noailles, who 
knew what the man was capable of; but a king is 
never refused anything. This is what the cardinal 
wrote on the matter to Madame de Maintenon: 
** I give new powers to Father Le Tellier, though 
he is the person who least deserves to have them. 
It is a sacrifice I make to the king, and I leave it 


to his conscience, continually praying our Lord to 
make liim aware of the risk he runs in entrusting 
his soul to a man of that character."* The cardi- 
nal was not mistaken. Hardly had Father Le 
Tellier entered upon his duties, when Louis XIV. 
consulted him about an augmentation of the taxes 
he intended to raise from the people ; the confessor 
handed him, a few days afterwards, the result of a 
consultation of several doctors of the Sorbonne, 
stating that all the goods of subjects belong to the 
king, and that he does but dispose of what is his 

We may judge from the extract of a letter 
written by Fenelon to Louis XIV., in what man- 
ner the titled confessors of kings performed their 
duties, and how far these men are serviceable in 
leading them to virtue and making them good 
princes: *^As to your confessor," said Fenelon, 
^^he is not vicious, but he is afraid of solid virtue, 
and likes only profane and immoral persons ; he is 
jealous of his authority, which you have extended 
beyond all bounds. Never have the confessors of 
kings created bishops by their single authority 
and decided concerning all the affairs of conscience. 
You are the only person in France, sire, who is 
ignorant that he knows nothing ; that his mind is 
narrow and coarse ; and that he possesses some 

* Lettres de Madame de Maintenon, t. iv. 


artifice notwithstanding this coarseness of his 
mind : the Jesuits despise him^ and are indignant 
to see him so easily influenced to serve the ridicu- 
lous ambition of his family. You have made a 
monk a minister of state^ who knows no more about 
men than he does about things, and who is the dupe 
of all those who flatter him and make him small 
presents. He neither doubts nor hesitates about 
any difficult question: another, very clever and very 
enlightened, would not dare to decide alone ; but 
for his part, he is afraid only of having to delibe- 
rate with people associated with rules. He pushes 
boldly forward on all occasions without fearing to 
lead you astray ; he will always be inclined to dis- 
soluteness, and to keep you in ignorance, at all 
events ; he will incliae towards parties who con- 
form to rules only when afraid of shocking you ; 
thus, it is one blind man leading another, and, as 
Jesus Christ says, * they will both fall into the 

The next passage we are about to quote from 
the pious and conscientious Fenelon, clearly de- 
monstrates that confessors, instead of reminding 
kings of their duties, are incessantly leading them 
astray by interest, baseness, vile adulation, or 
weakness. The language which this worthy 
priest addressed to kings ought to be that of all 

* (Euvres Philosophiques de d'Alembert, t. viii., p. 51. 


truly religious confessors, when the princes of the 
earth come to kneel before them: "Have you 
done justice," says Fenelon, " to the merit of all 
the principal subjects whom you can put in govern- 
ment places ? By reckoning virtue and talent as 
nothing in choosing men, you have done the state 
irreparable wrong. Is it not from these very cor- 
rupt motives that you have fiUed the principal 
posts with weak and depraved men, and kept aloof 
from you every one who was well qualified to aid 
you in public business ? To take away the lands 
and money of others is not an injustice comparable 
to that which I have just explained" 

"What is certain is, that you have promised 
conditions to this your people : it is your duty to 
maintain them inviolably. Who could even trust 
you were you to fail in this ? What would be 
sacred if so solemn a promise be not so ? It is a 
contract entered into with the people to make 
them your subjects. Would you set about under^ 
mining the basis of your title ? They owe you 
obedience only according to this contract: and, 
should you violate it, you will no longer be de- 
serving of their obedience."* 

If we pass on to the grandson of Louis XIV., 
we find the same sacrilegious abuse of confession, 

* Fenelon, Direction pour la conscience des rois, or Examen 
de comcience sur les devoirs de la royavie. 


on the part of the confessor, and on that of 
the royal penitent. "Louis XV. took for his 
confessor Silvaln Pemsseau; for etiquette and 
imposture then so prescribed, even to the most dis- 
solute kings. It was the same priest who confessed 
this king in the serious illness he suffered at Metz. 
The patient, having recovered, resimied the course 
of his debaucheries with the three sisters Ch&teau- 
roux, and such mistresses as La Mailly and others, 
who had also their confessors. La Pompadour, 
La Romance, La Dubary, and the Parc-aux^Cerfs^ 
were kept in a style of boundless debauchery, cal- 
culated to satisfy the lubricity^of the devout prince, 
to scandalise Europe, and corrupt the morals of the 
people. A second repentance, at the period of his 
approaching death, in 1774, as meritorious in the 
eyes of God as the former, gained him an absolu- 
tion from his confessor, and opened for him the 
gates of heaven." 

This most Christian King was not less zealous 
for the salvation of his subjects than for his own. 
He had, in consequence; allowed confessors to his 
establishments of luxury and pleasure, even down 
to his dog-kennels. The confessor of the chenil" 
neuf figured in the almanack of Versailles. We 
do not find, however, him of the Paro-aux-cerfs, 

Louis XVI., after withdrawing his confidence 
from the curate Poupart, gave it to Father Len- 
fant ; and this choice contributed not a little to 


his melancholy end; for it is known that the insti- 
gations of this Jesuit had much to do with the 
opposition which this prince made to the revolu- 
tion. I£, instead of encouraging him in that fatal 
course, by absolving him from his oaths, every 
time he took one, he had given him counsels dic- 
tated by religion and prudence, he would very 
probably have rejected those which he received 
from a blind and corrupted court, and would not 
have allowed himself to be seduced by the encou- 
ragement and hopes held out by the enemies of 
liberty, both at home and abroad. Have we not 
seen among us within these few years, the princes 
of the Restoration abandoning themselves to the 
counsels of their apparent or real confessors ? Was 
not Louis XVni. influenced by the Archbishop 
of Paris, and did not the Abb6 De Latile contri- 
bute to the coup cPetat which has snatched the 
crown of France away for ever from the eldest 
branch of the Bourbons ? 

Confessors have not extended their disastrous 
influence upon France alone ; their counsels have 
been more or less fatal to Spain, Portugal, Italy, 
and England. We may attribute to them, in a 
great measure, the superstition, ignorance, and 
degradation of these first three nations, as well as 
the system of despotism which, for three hundred 
years, has enslaved the finest countries in Europe. 
It was this that gave a boundless authority to the 


terrible and bloody tribunal of the Inquisition, 
which has spread its fatal influence beyond the 
seas, over the whole surface of South America, 
and over the other possessions of Spain and Por- 

J£ you would know the effects of confession, 
travel through Switzerland; compare the localities 
where it prevails with those that have rejected it, 
and you will then be able to judge what are the 
services for which they are indebted to it. Austria, 
compared to Bussia, will show you the same phe- 
nomenon, diversely modified by circumstances. 
Would it be a rash presumption to think that con- 
fession had much to do with the bloody contests 
which have just taken place in Switzerland, on 
account of the presence of that papal militia, ever 
ready to sow hatred and discord ? Lastly, in Eng- 
land, confession has been one of the principal 
causes of the intolerance and religious dissensions 
which have so long agitated the three kingdoms. 
In short, this it was that caused James II. to lose 
his crown. ^* All judicious persons of the Catholic 
communion," says Hume, "were disgusted with 
the violent measures, and could easily foresee the 
consequences. But James was entirely governed 
by the rash counsels of the queen and his con- 
fessor. Father Peters, a Jesuit, whom he soon 
afterwards created a privy councillor."* 

* Hume, History of England, anno 1686. 


How can a prince help blindly obeying the priest 
at whose feet he lays every day the pomp and pride 
of the throne, or how avoid submitting to the pre- 
scriptions and counsels of one who, more potent 
than the angels, is able, by pronouncing a single 
word, to procure him the kingdom of heaven, when 
death must deprive him of what he possesses upon 
the earth?* 

Let us conclude what concerns the higher order 
of policy by a passage taken from the work of a 
bishop, who has demonstrated by facts the dis- 
astrous influence which has been exercised at all 
times by confessors who have directed the con- 
sciences of kings, or those of the men to whom is 
intrusted the management of public affairs. 

*^ Political sins," says he, " or rather, such mul- 
tiplied crimes, for the most part very serious, are 
seldom submitted to the tribimal of penitence, and 
still more seldom atoned for. A prepossession, 
sprung from ignorance and dishonesty, seems to 
consider them as if placed beyond the circle of mo- 
rality. The period is not remote when great digni- 
taries were heard to say ; one, ^ / never brought my 
conscience to public affairs;^ and another, ^ Yes, it is 
injustice ; but is it with justice that men are governed ?' 

* Quantus honor sacerdoti debetur, ad cujus genua et 
pedes diadema et purpura, si exolvi vinculis velint, accedere 
debent. Sacerdos omnes nodos, etiam angelis inenodabiles 
exolvit, verbo absolvo. — (Coesalius, de Veter. Christ ritibus.) 


Wretches! where did you place your consciences ? 
and with what did you govern ? We know but 
too well," 

These avowals remind us of the anecdote re- 
lated by the canon Joly. " One day, at Notre- 
Dame de Paris, the keeper of the seals, clad in his 
magnificent robe, presented himself, in the Chapel 
of the Virgin, at the communion table* Another 
magistrate said to his neighbour, *Do you see that 
keeper of the seals in his fine dress taking the com- 
munion, in presence of everybody ? On leaving 
this place, he will, perhaps, go and sign edicts to 
ruin five or six persons.'"* 

We have just spoken of the influence of confes- 
sors upon the minds of kings, and ever to the mis- 
fortune of the people. It would be easy to follow 
up this article with a chapter to prove that the 
influence upon the minds of nations has not been 
less fatal to the kings themselves than to public 
tranquillity, of which the history of every age fur- 
nishes us with abundant proofs. For fear of ex- 
tending this subject beyond our limits, we shall 
confine ourselves to the quotation of a single ex- 
ample which has produced such disastrous effects 
during a long series of years. We mean the mi- 
serable times of the league, in which confessors 

♦ Gregoire, Histoire des Confesseurs des Empereurs, des 
rois, ch. Y., p. 61. 


took a very active part and possessed much influ- 
ence. The authors of that faction, encouraged by 
the court of Kome and that of Spain, found a 
powerful means of acquiring partisans among cre- 
dulous or fanatical people, by means of confession. 
It is always easy to seduce the ignorant multitude 
when they are addressed in the name of God. 
Thus it was they dragged them into rebellion, by 
secretly inculcating opinions which it would have 
been dangerous to profess in the public pulpit 
^^ They who worked the most efficaciously to cause 
rebellion," says De Thouy " were the confessors, 
who developed, in the ears of their penitents, what- 
ever the preachers durst not plainly set forth in 
public ; for in their pulpits, they refrained from 
naming persons, fearing they might be punished. 
The confessors, making an abuse of the secrecy of 
their ministry, spared neither the king, the mi- 
nisters, nor the persons most attached to him ; and, 
instead of consoling by pious words those who ap- 
plied to them, they filled their minds with false 
reports, and put their consciences to the torture 
by embarrassing questions, and a thousand scruples. 
By the same means, they searched into the secrets 
of families; they maintained that subjects might form 
associations without the permission of the prince ; 
they dragged them into that fatal league ; and they 
refused absolution to such as would not enter." 
^^ Complaints were laid," adds M. de Thou, 


"against these seditious confessions; they were 
commanded not thus to abuse the sanctity of their 
ministry ; they did not alter their course, but were 
only more circumspect, and laid down this new 
dogma : ^ That the penitent who betrays what the 
confessor has told him is as guilty as the confessor 
who reveals the confession of his penitent.' "* 

♦ De Thou, Hist., liv 86. 








The system of sacerdotal confession, so con- 
trary to natural law and that of the Grospel, has 
necessarily given rise to irregularities, incon- 
sistencies, and numerous abuses. One of the most 
serious of these inconveniences, and which best 
demonstrates the inutility of confession, is the con- 
fident perseverance with which a great nimiber of 
Roman Catholics pass their lives in alternately 
sinning and getting absolution ; and what is not 
less deplorable is, that absolution or the remission 


of sins has been granted or refiised, according to 
the passions, party spirit, ignorance, opinions, pre- 
judices, or the character of the confessors. Thus, 
what, in the opinion of one priest, might be an 
unpardonable crime, has been found to be an in- 
different or even a meritorious action, according to 
another, in different circumstances. This is a cri- 
minal abuse, which one council bitterly complained 
of. " As we have heard," says the second Coun- 
cil of Toledo, "that there are in some churches of 
Spain men who, every time it pleases them to sin, 
do penance, not according to the prescriptions of 
the canons, but in the most shameful manner, and 
that each time they ask the priest to reconcile 
them ; it is to put a stop to such execrable pre- 
sumption that," &c* " This conversion," says the 
same council, "gives not life, but death ; it is the 
triumph of the devil."t Such was the doctrine of 
the whole primitive church. 

Thus it is that people generally believe that, to 
obtain the remission of sips, it is sufficient to make 

* Quoniam comperivimus per quasdem Hispaniarum £c- 
clesias, non secundum canonum, sed foedissime, pro suis pec- 
catis homines agere pcenitentiam et quotiescumqne peccare 
libuerit, toties a presbytero se reconciliari expostulent et ideo 
ad coercendum tam execrabilem proesumptionem. — (ConciL 
ii., Toletan.) 

f Hoec conversio non est ad vitam, sed ad mortem ; ut 
glorietur diabolus per eam. — (Id., ibid.) 


ani avowal of them to a priest, to say their confiteor^ 
and perform some slight penance, which consists 
in reciting a few paters^ or psahns. This easy 
mode of imburthening their consciences, by pre- 
senting themselves more or less frequently at the 
feet of a priest, far from contributing to a change 
of life, maintains the greater part of men in their 
habitual irregularities. Indeed, how many per- 
sons do we not see go regularly to the confessional, 
who nevertheless continue to lead a licentious life, 
violating the most imperious precepts of the Gos- 
pel; but all these crimes are pardoned by the vir-^ 
tual effect of three words. People trust to their 
absolution, which they are sure to obtain. 

Nay, many do not fear to sin and to leave their 
passions unbridled^ indidging in the hope that at a 
certain age, or at the point of death, they will re- 
cdve an absolution, which will shelter them from 
eternal damnation. They present themselves at 
the confessional, receive absolution, and take the 
communion, because it is a custom to which every- 
body submits, or because nobody can escape it 
without incurring blame, calumny, and repro- 
bation, and ofren the persecution and hatred of 
the superstitious and fanatical. Thus it is that 
consciences are perverted, and people are made 
sacrilegious or hypocrites. Therefore confession, 
so far from improving moral and religious senti- 
ments, corrupts and perverts them. 


The earlier Christians admitted xiobody to the 
communion of the faithfiil till after they felt con- 
vinced, firom his long and severe penance, that he 
had really improved. But, ance auricular confes- 
sion has been instituted, not only is absolution 
given before the ordeal is made by penance, but 
this penance is in such disproportion with the 
magnitude of the abs, that passion has ever more 
empire and influence over the mind than a punish- 
ment easy to support 

The councils say — or, what is still better, rea- 
son says — that the remission of sins, that is to say, 
sacerdotal absolution, the ega te ctbsoho ought not 
to be pronounced till after the reparation or the 
fulfilment of the penance imposed by the priest. 
This absolution would be, in the contrary cas^ 
the act of a judge, who, inflicting a punishment 
on a criminal, would leave him at liberty to un- 
dergo or not this puni^ment. This right of 
judging and punishing would then become a mere 
illusion. It would be like a creditor giving a re- 
ceipt to his debtor before the latter had settled 
his debt. It was accordingly to prevent this fatal 
irregularity, and the infractions of the penitential 
conditions, that the councils formally condemned 
it. Fleury shows the vices of this practice, so 
antichristian and even inmioral from its results, 
when he speaks of its being introduced into the 
Church. ** There was then no longer any ques- 


tioh of being convinced by lasting ordeab of the 
conversion of the hearty which was the end and 

aim of the canonical penance The unconverted 

sinner would not render himself fit to render sa- 
tisfiM^tion when he had obtained by absolution all 

he desired At the same time they introduced 

the custom of giving absolution^ even in secret 
penance^ immediately affcer confession, and satis- 
faction imposed and accepted; whereas, in old 
times, it was given only at the end or at least after 
a great part of the penance had been performed."* 

It was the great interest which the Church of 
Borne and the clergy had in getting auricular con- 
fession adopted, that rendered general the use of 
spontaneous absolutions : they felt convinced that 
sinners would submit to it the more easily, that in 
receiving the pardon of their faults, immediately 
after declaring them, they would believe them- 
selves to be delivered from the punishments of 
hell, and thus accept with pleasure rather than re- 
pugnance the new yoke imposed upon them. 

But what is very surprising is, that, whilst they 
are so indulgent, when there is any question of 
imposing a penance and giving absolution to 
powerftd men, to princes who have existed only 
to be a curse to several millions of individuals, they 

Fleury, 4me discoursur V Hist. Eccles., n. 15. 


refused it even till 1396,* to persons condemned to 
death for a single fault which even only slightly 
injured one person ; and, in our time, they still 
reAise in the same case to allow them to partici- 
pate in the blood of Jesus Christ, who died to save 
all mankind. 

Bavaillac, led to execution in 1610, having 
asked his confessor for absolution, the latter re- 
fused, saying: "that this was forbidden for crimes 
of high treason, if he did not reveal his accom- 
plices;" Bavaillac, who had told him he had none, 
asked him to give him a conditional absolution, 
which should be valid only in case what he had 
assured him was the truth; and the priest gave it 

K confession and communion be, as you affirm, 
sacraments to the participation of which eternal 
salvation is attached, and this participation can be 
effected only by your ministry, by what right 
did you refiise the one so long, and do you still 
refuse the other to wretches far less guilty before 
God than those men for whom you open all the 
treasures of heaven, merely because they possess 
all those of earth ? 

* An ordinance of King Charles VL, abolishing the cus- 
tom that no proyince of this kingdom should give the sacra- 
ment of confession to persons condemned to death. — (Hist, 
des Antiq. de Paris, par Sauval, t. iii., p. 649.) 

t M€moires de TEtoile, t. ii., p. 322. 


Moreover, there are many occasions when they 
give absolution without looking so closely. Thus, 
there are often men who have never believed in 
confession or the commandments of the Church, 
and who, seeing their death approaching, manifest 
no desire of having recourse to a priest. But when 
they are in the agonies of death, without either 
knowledge or will, their relations or friends, from 
human respect, or decency, or on account of cer- 
tain interests, or out of hypocrisy send for a priest. 
The latter, upon the testimony — almost always false 
— ^that the dying man, before losing his intellectual 
faculties, had shown symptoms of repentance, 
gives absolution ; and the public, either devout or 
affecting to be so, rejoices at a soul, purified by 
this absolution, and secure of the happiness of par- 
taking the repose of the celestial abode. The 
priest may even be convinced, that the person 
upon whom he is operating is incredulous, a philo- 
sopher, nay an atheist; no matter, he does his 
duty in obedience to the Coimcil of Orange, which 
said: "He who suddenly becomes unconscious 
may receive penance or baptism, if other persons 
bear testimony to his previous will, or if he him- 
self should indicate it by some sign. These sacra- 
ments and whatever things belong to piety may 
also be given to tiie insane."* But things are 

* Subito obmutescent, baptizari aut pGenitentiam acdpere 


carried still further at the present day, when ma- 
terial interests, the influence of certain opinions 
favoured by government, or the fear of shocking 
the prejudices of the moment, lead a great many 
persons, who do not even believe in Christianity, 
to request in their life time, that, after their death, 
all the outward forms of religion should be prac- 
tised towards them, and this for the edification of 
the public : thus, in our customs, edification and 
hypocrisy have become synonymous. 

As for madmen and idiots, they have gone from 
one deduction to another so far as to pretend, that 
the absolution which was practised upon them 
produced the same effect as if those persons had 
been in the enjoyment of all their intellectual 
faculties; for, said the infallible doctors of the 
Church : " As people are agreed to give baptism 
to those who are unconscious, and upon the faith 
of their parents, so also they who have received 
the gift of penitence, after having lost the use of 
their reason, ought to retain it and submit to it.* 

potest, si Yoluntatis poenitentise testimonium in aliorum verbis 
habet, aut proesentis in suo nutu, amentibus etiam quoe- 
comque pietatis sunt, conferenda sunt. — (First Council of 
Orange, ch. 3.) 

^ Sicut baptismum quod nescientibus parvulis sine ulla 
contentione in fide tantum proximorum accipitur, ita et poe- 
nitentiae donum quod nescientibus illabitur, absque ulla repug- 
nantia, inviolabiliter, hi qui illud ,'acceperint observabunt. — 
(Concil. Toletan., xii., cap. 2.) 


It is difficult to conceive a doctrine which 
applies essentially spiritual sacraments to inert 
bodies^ deprived of every intellectual faculty, of 
reason and of wilL Might not this manner of ad- 
ministering the sacrament be compared to a physi- 
cian who, being called in to a dying man and 
arriving after he has breathed his last, should in- 
ject into his body remedies which can no longer 
have any effect ? But we must not be surprised, 
since this doctrine has been so favourable to the 
power, riches, and splendour of the court of 

The ftirther we penetrate into the labyrinth of 
auricular confession the more we are bewildered. 
On one side you are told that absolution can be 
valid only after a verbal and circumstantial de- 
claration of every sin ; and, on the other, absolu- 
tion is given to an army scattered over a plain, 
to a distance of several miles, where the priest 
can neither see, hear, nor be heard, to an army 
composed of several thousand men, who, the day 
before, violated and pillaged, and who, on the 
morrow, will massacre, bum, rob, and violate at 
discretion. These are facts which have inces- 
santly occurred, especially during the period of 
the crusades. Here is an instance of them, the 
more remarkable that absolution of this kind was 
given by a pope. This pope, who was Urban II., 
came to France in 1091 ; he convoked a council 


at Clermont^ in which he fuhninated a sentence 
of excommunication against Philip, who had 
ahready been excommunicated, the preceding year, 
in a council of French bishops, assembled at Au- 
tun. It was in the council of Clermont, at which 
the French and foreign princes attended, that he 
decreed, at the instigation of a fanatical monk, 
Peter the Hermit, a crusade against the Turks. 
Having repaired, with the members of the coun- 
cil, to a vast square filled with an immense crowd, 
he made them a speech to engage them to take 
the cross. " After this oration,'' says an historian, 
^^a cardinal, named Ghirigorio, fell prostrate on 
the groimd in the name of all, and redted the 
confession; all the people present beating their 
breasts, received the absolution of their sins, and 
afterwards benediction.''* And aQ having shouted, 
"It is the will of God" {Dim le veut), took the 

But who were the people who thus suddenly 
departed for the Crusades, and who, without 
saying a word, or ever thinking of the crimes 
with which their lives were polluted, received so 
speedily the absolution of them from him to 

* Date fine a questa aringa, uno de cardinali che aveva 
noma Ghirigorio prostematosi in terra, in nomine di tutti, 
recit6 la confessione e tutti, percotendosi il petto, ebboro 
Tassoluzione delle peccata, et dopo la benedizione. — (Gnerra 
per i prindpi christian! contra i Saracini da il irate Boberto.) 


whom Jesus Christ has intrusted the keys of 
paradise, when conferring on him the power of 
retaining and remitting? Saint Bernard himself, 
a great instigator of the Crusades, will inform us. 
** There was seen going on the Crusades a pro- 
digious multitude of men, who, with the exception 
of a few, were mere wretches, impious or sacri- 
legious persons, ravishers of women, homiddes, 
peijurers, and adulterers. Two advantages re- 
sulted from their departure, for such as had any 
C(mnexion with them rejoiced at it, and they who 
expected some assistance from them in this enter- 
prise experienced no less pleasure. The result 
was, that their absence was useful to those whom 
they oppressed, as well as to those to whose aid 
they were marching,"* 

It was in consequence of this opinion, so skil- 
folly inculcated upon the minds of men and on 
which eternal salvation is made to depend, that 
the court of Bome used to dethrone kings, dis- 
tribute empires, instigate the people to rebellion 

* Faucos admodam in tanta multitudine hominum illo con- 
fl^eTe videas^ nisi utique sceleratos et impios, raptores et sacri- 
l^os, honncidos, peijurios, adulteros : de quorum profecto pro- 
fectione Bicut duplex quoddam constat provenire bonum, ita 
duplicatur et gaudium ; quando quidem tarn suos de suo dis- 
oessu Icetificant, quam illos de adventu quibus subvenire 
festinant. Frosunt quippe utrobique, non solum utiqtte 
istos tuendo, sed etiam illos non opprimendo. — (Bernard, 
C. S. Sermo exhortat. ad milites templi.) 


against legitimate authority^ and smn the former 
and the latter against those who refused to recOg- 
liise its usurpations^ or against the enemies that 
menaced its power. It was with the fascination 
of the words addressed by Jesus Christ to Saint 
Peter, " I will give you the kingdom of heaven ;" 
that the popes have opened or shut, according to 
their will or their interests, the gates of heaven, 
and stirred, agitated, and subjugated the Chris- 
tian world. It was by usurping the primitive 
rights of the faithful and the priesthood, that they 
reserved to themselves alone the power of ab- 
solving certain sins — a means of increasing their 
power and riches. Lastly^ what has given them 
that empire over minds, which definitely governs 
that of material force, is that pretended divine 
right of granting or selling indulgences for the 
redemption of past, present, and even future sinsi, 
and of delivering sinful souls from the flames of 
purgatory. This belief had penetrated so deeply 
into minds, that many persons engaged in the 
disastrous wars of the Crusades preferred a cer- 
tain death, to which their eternal salvation was at- 
tached, to returning into their own country, where 
a relapse into sin might lead them to hell. This 
is what we are informed by the Abbe de Casemari, 
in one of his letters : " They who returned frt)m 
the Crusades," he says, *^have avowed that they 
had seen several persons menaced with death. 


who said they would rather die than return 
thither^ lest they should relapse into sin,"* What 
opinion is more calculated to bewilder the mind of 
man, to fanaticize and degrade it, than that which 
tends to persuade him that^ should he fall in any 
enterprise^ any unjust or criminal war, he is 
secure, whatever be the enormity of his sins, and 
that, being supplied with the sacerdotal pardon, 
he will obtain that of God ! Is not this the doc- 
trine of the Koran and the holy war preached by 
the MouUas of Islamism? Or, if they will, that 
which Luther attributed to certain monks, when 
he said : " The wretches I they believe that indul- 
gence is powerful enough to save the greatest 
sinner, even one who might have violated the 
Holy Mother of our Saviour T 

There is another contradiction presented by 
auricular and sacerdotal confession. What be- 
comes of absolution — ^what effect can it have, in 
the case in which an incredulous priest, which has 
happened more than once, despising the sacrament, 
feigns to give absolution, and does not pronounce 
the indispensable sacramental words ? Doubtless, 
this absolution is not valid, and, consequently, can 
produce no effect Yet, as it is indispensable, the 

* Denique confess! sunt nobis qui redibant, quod vidissent 
multos ibi morientes quilibentur se mori dicebant, neque 
velle reverti, ne amplius in peccata reciderent. — (Epistol. 


penitent who does not receive it will be guilty 
before God and deserve a punishment. "But," 
say they, " the desire he has of giving satisfaction 
to the precept justifies him before God." This 
is very well ; but does it not thence follow that 
God, showing mercy without the ministry of a 
priest, such ministry is useless in this case as it is 
in every other? It is true, theological doctors 
shift the difficulty by saying : " However unwor- 
thy the dispensers of this celestial gift may be, yet 
grace is effected by their ministry, even as it hap- 
pened when God spoke to Balaam through the 
medium of his ass. Indeed, in this case, our im- 
worthiness is no obstacle to grace."* The Dona- 
tists denied^ with reason, the validity of sacraments 
administered by such as had no faith. J£ it were 
otherwise, the absolution of sins given by a Pagan, 
a Brahman, or a Mussulman, would be equally 
efficacious. Saint Thomas reasons still more fiJsely 
when he says: " Confession does not cease to be 
sacramental, though he who confesses be deter- 
mined not to change his conduct."t This is al- 

* Nam quamvis indigui sunt qui divinorum donorum 
ministri sunt, et gratia operatur per eos, sicut et per asinam 
Balaam locutus est. Non enim indignitas nostra gratiam 
prohibet. — (S. Chrysost., Horn. 85, in Joan.) 

f Confessio non desinit esse sacramentalis, quamyis ille 
qui confitetur emendationem non proponat. — (S. Thomas, in 
qaarta dist., 21.) 


most like saying that the words ^^ I baptize thee^ 
pronounced by a Christian upon the head of a 
Pagan ^ho might refuse to embrace the faith, 
would become sacramental, produce an effect, and 
make a man a Christian in spite of himself. Thus 
it is that the admission of a sacramental confession 
has brought along with it contradictory and inde- 
fensible opinions. 

Lastly, another absurdity, resulting from the 
power of absolving or condenming sinners during 
life, has been to anathematise, and even to dis- 
anathematise them after their death. This bar- 
barous practice, so contrary to charity, was intro- 
duced by the hatred and spirit of persecution 
which reigned among* the numerous sects, from 
the very origin of Christianity. Gratian, after 
having quoted as examples Theodorus, Mopsues- 
tus, Dioscorus, and Origen, excommunicated after 
their deaths, adds: "The holy synod has said: 
it has been sufficiently demonstrated, by all that 
bas been related, as well as by the tradition of the 
Church, that the apostates and the heretics were 
anathematised after their death."* This anathema 
was pronounced in a Council of Africa against 
such bishops as bequeathed their wealth to here- 

* Sancta synodus dixit : Sufficiunt quidem quae dicta et 
probata sunt, ecclesiasticam traditionem demonstrare quod 
apostates, haereticos et post mortem anathematisari. — (Grat., 
in decret. Causa xxiv., qu8est.2.) 


tics. '* Several bishops of our province, assembled 
of yore to discuss different points of ecclesiastical 
discipline, decided that bishops who leave their 
wealth to heretics shall be subject to anathema 
after their death."* 

Plutarch relates a fact which ought to cause 
excommunicating and anathejnaiisvng priests to 
blush^ who, unmindftd of evangelical meekness and 
tolerance, pursue with their hatred and vengeance, 
even beyond the tomb, such as do not share their 
opinions and reftise to submit to their laws. A 
woman, a Pagan priestess, opposes the wish of the 
people who command her to anathematise their 
enemy, whereas the history of our religion displays 
a long series of anathemas against kings, nations, 
and individuals. *^The priestess of Pallas was 
praised," says Plutarch, "although the people had 
commanded her: *For I have,' replied she, *the 
profession of priestess to pray for men, and not to 
curse them.' "f 

But what is not less singular and absurd, is to 
make this power of retaining and remitting extend 

* Anterioribus temporibns in nostra provinda, multi epis- 
copi oongregati, et quidem de diversis causis ad ecclesiasticum 
statum pertinentibus, disputantes, statuerunt de episcopis 
defunctis, qui hoeretids suas facilitates relinquunt, ut post 
mortem anathemati subjiciantnr. — (Condi. Airic, cap. xlviii., 
can. 80.) 

t Plutarch, Roman Questions ; quest. 44. 


even into hell, and to use it for delivering ttose 
who have been condemned to inhabit that abode 
to all eternity. This is, however, what was done 
by papal power and infallibility in 1357. Pierre 
de Bourbon, having been excommunicated by the 
pope, and having died in this state of anathema, 
his son, believing that the pope had the power to 
deliver souls from hell, asked him to get him ab- 
solved, in order that he might cause prayers to be 
said for him, doubtless supposing that he would 
pass into purgatory. A French cardinal, being 
appointed commissioner by the pope, pronounced 
the following decree: *^We recommend to each 
of you, and command that, in case the son of the 
deceased should keep the promise he has made, the 
soul of his father, after receiving absolution, shall 
be succoured by the prayers of the faithftd."* 

The book of proverbs had said . ** Universa de- . 
Ucta Operit Charitas ;" ** Charity towards God and 
man remits every sin." The Gx)spel repeats, that 
he who possesses this charity has fulfilled all the 
law. Here are the observations of Origen, and 
the motives upon which he grounds his opinion : 
" You have heard how many sacrifices there are 

^ Yobis et cuilibet vestrum in solidum committimns et 
mandamus quatenus si est ita prcedicto filio ad implere quod 
promittit, facialis animam ipsius patris defuncti, debita abso- 
lutione prcevia fidelium adjuvari. Datum Avenion., anno 


in the law for the remission of sins : learn now 
what are the ways in the Gospel of obtaining this 
remission. The first consists of baptism^ the 
second of martyrdom, and the third of ahns : for 
the Saviour has said, ^ Give alms, and you shall be 
entirely purified.' The fourth is : ^ Our sins are 
forgiven us, because we forgive those of our 
brethren.' This is what our Lord and Saviour 
has said : * If you heartily remit the sins of yottr 
brethren^ your Father will also remit yours ;' for he 
has taught us to pray thus : * Forgive us our tres- 
passes as we forgive them that trespass against us,^ 
The fifth manner of obtaining the remission of 
sins consists in withdrawing a sinner from his 
errors, and saving his soul from death. Thus it is 
we blot out a multitude of sins. The sixth is to 
be found in a boundless charity, as our Saviour 
himself says : ^ Verily I say unto you^ her sins are 
forgiven her, because she loved much,^ And the 
apostle has said : ^ Charity covers a multitude of 
sins,^ There is, moreover, a seventh manner, 
though very difficult and painful, of obtaining the 
remission of sins: it is repentance — such repen- 
tance as when the sinner bathes his bed with tears, 
when they serve him for food night and day, and 
he does not blush to avow his sins to the priest of 
the Lord, and to demand a remedy."* Thus, love 

* Audisti quanta sint in lege sacrificia pro peccatis, audi 


towards God and towards our neighbour are, ac- 
cording to the belief of the primitive church, the 
essential conditions of the forgiveness of sins. 
Origen would not have omitted confession, had it 
been practised in his time. 

Let us speak of the revelations of confession 
made by priests. The Church, in prescribing sacer- 
dotal confession to Christians, enacted very severe 
pmiishments against such as revealed their con- 
fessions, in order to re-assure those who, through 
the dread of seeing certain acts of which they 

nunc quants sint remissiones peccatorum in Eyangeliis. Est 
ista prima, qua baptizamur in remissione peccatorum. Se- 
conda remissio est in passiona martyrii. Tertia est quae pro 
eLeemosyoa datnr. Dicit enim S&Lyator : Verumtamen date 
eleemosynam^ et ecce omnia mtmda sicvt vohis, Quarta nobis 
fit remissione peccatorum per hoc quod et nos remittimus 
peccata fratribus nostris. Sic enim dicit ipse Dominus et 
Salvator noster, quia si dimiseritis fratrUms vestris ex corde 
peccata ipaorum^ et vobis remUtet pater vester : et sicut in ora- 
tione non dicere docuit, remitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos 
remittimus debitoribus nostris. Quinta remissio peccatorum 
est, quum converterit quis peccatorem ab errore vitse suae, 
salvat animam ejus a morte, et cooperit multitudinem pec- 
catorum. Sexta quoque fit remissio per abundantiam ehari- 
tatis, sicut et ipse Dominus dicit : Amen dico, remittuntur ei 
peccata mvJUcL, quoniam dUexit muUum, Et apostolus dicit : 
Charitas cooperit multitudinem peccatorum. Est adhuc 
septima, licet dura et laboriosa, per pcenitentiam remissionem 
peccatorum, cum lavat peccator in lachrymis stratum suum, 
et fiunt ei lachrymoe panes die ac nocte, et cum non erubescit 
sacerdoti Domini indicare peccatum suum et quoerere mede- 
dnum. — (Origenes, Hom. 2, in Levitic.) 


might be guilty, noised abroad, might refuse to 
submit to this kind of tribunal The Council of 
Latran, wishing that this confession, which it had 
promoted to a sacrament, should prevail, declared, 
"that a priest who reveals any confession sins 
more grievously than he who commits the sin." * 
Thus, according to this doctrine, which thus pa- 
tronises a practice prescribed for the interests of 
the church, he who assassinates upon the highway 
is less guilty than he who denounces him. 

Other theologians profess a still more frightful 
doctrine upon this subject : ** A confession ought 
not to be revealed," say they, " even though the 
point in question be the salvation of the whole 
world, the preservation of the penitent himself or 
any other innocent person, the conflagration of the 
world, the destruction of the sacraments and that 
of reli^on, the life and preservation of Jesus 
Christ himself, if he returned upon the earth, or 
that of any prince or monarcL"! It was with 

* Gravius peccat sacerdcm qui peccatum revelat, qnam 
homo qui peccatum committit. — (Concil. Later., iy.) 

t Non si agatur totius orbis salus \ non si ipsius poemtentis, 
non si cujuscumque innocentis conservatio ; non si totius 
orbis conflagratio ; non si religionem et sacramentorum 
omnium perversio ; non denique ipsius Christi in terra yer- 
santis, nedum ullius principis aut monarchy yita atque ineo- 
lumitas. — (Henriq., Sum Theolog., lib. yi., de Foenit., c 19, 


such execrable maxims as tliese^ that they were 
able to place a poniard in the hands of fanatics, 
without fearing to compromise themselves. 

But, in fact, all these fine declarations and pro- 
hibitions are observed only so far as they are use- 
ful to the interests of the Church; for a great 
number of facts may be cited, without reckoning 
those which, being done secretly, have not come 
to the knowledge of the public, in which secrecy 
has been violated by the order and with the appro- 
bation of the popes and councils. The former have 
published several bulls by which they order peni- 
tents to reveal to the bishops and inquisitors cer- 
tain transgressions or crimes against the doctrine, 
laws, and decrees of the Boman Catholic Church ; 
• and they prescribe that absolution shall not be 
given till after this declaration has been made. 
But there is here, nevertheless, a violation of the 
secrecy of confession, and it is no less real, though 
it be made in an indirect manner. For, in this 
case, the priest is the true revealer, since the peni- 
tent would have revealed nothing, had he not been 
constrained by the refusal of absolution ; a refusal 
which, in his estimation, is a condemnation to ever- 
lasting punishments in a future life. Boniface 
VIIL, after having excommunicated Philip IV., 
ordered his confessor to go to Bome to give an 
account of the conduct of his penitent. In the 
councils which were held at the end of the thir- 



teenth century, decrees were made by which con- 
fessors are commanded to reveal the name and sins 
of the priests^ who, in the exercise of their ministry, 
may have violated the laws of decency ; which de- 
crees were confirmed in an assembly of the curates 
and vicars of Paris, held in 1503. Saint Foix 
quotes the following fact, related by Pierre Mattieu. 
"A nobleman of Normandy, having confessed to a 
Franciscan friar, and accused himself of having 
wished to Idll Francis L, the Franciscan gave 
the prince notice of it, and the noble was con- 
demned to be beheaded. This friar, who was 
probably rewarded for having violated the secrecy 
of confession, would, however, have deserved the 
same punishment ; since, according to the principle 
of the Council of Latran, he was more guilty than 
he who had committed the crime. 

I myself was nearly being a witness to a fact of 
the same nature in Spain, where I made a journey 
immediately after the peace, during the time of the 
Directory. A very short time before that period, 
a man, of the middle class, named Piecomeille, had 
conceived the project of establishing a republic in 
Spain. He had managed to acquire a great num- 
ber of partisans among the people. He had formed 
a magazine of arms, and had intended, after he had 
seized on all the horses belonging to the numerous 
carriages which repair every evening to the public 
promenade, to have himself and his partisans con- 


veyed to La Granja, a country house where the 
king was residing^ and to make himself master of 
hie person. Two days before the time appointed 
for the execution of this project, a watchmaker, 
who was in the conspiracy, having been to confess 
to a monk on the occasion of a festival, revealed to 
him all that was to happen. The monk, as may 
be eadly imagined, hastened to make the revela- 
tion to the government. Piecomeille was arrested 
and sent to the Philippines ; for they durst not try 
him and put him to death, lest a popular insurrec- 
tion should break out. 

It is a duty of monks to reveal to their superiors 
the factsand sins confided to them, whenever any be- 
nefit may accrue to the Catholic religion; and, in this 
case, the superiors send the information to the court 
of Bome, who know how to turn it to advantage. 
The monks do not scruple any the more to make 
this kind of declaration to government, when they 
think they may derive some advantage from it for 
themselves or their order. Nay, the secrets of 
families are not always safe from these revelations. 
Not only theologians, but likewise celebrated juris- 
consults, have maintained that a confessor is not 
guilty in revealing the crime of high treason. From 
all we have stated it follows, that confession is 
sometimes fatal to penitents, but always useful 
to the Church, and often to despotic govern- 

L 2 


Another inconyenience of auricular confession 
is, that penitents do not always confine themselves 
to a simple declaration of their own faults, but 
also expose those of their neighbour, and reveal 
things which ought never to transpire beyond the 
family circle. This is complained of by a theologian 
who has written upon this matter with a full 
knowledge of his subject, and who speaks of this 
kind of abuse in the following terms : — " Let 
penitents know that, in confession, they ought to 
declare only their own sins, and not those of 
others, as many are accustomed to do ; in accumng 
themselves of their own sins, they reveal several 
sins that are foreign to them: men, what relates 
to their wives ; wives, to their husbands ; servants, 
what concerns their masters ; masters, things relat- 
ing to their servants ; and so on, one against the 

It is, however, a principle received among 
Catholic Casuists that, in certidn circumstances, 
the sins of others may be revealed. ^^ The honour 
of one's neighbour," says Nicole : ** must be pro- 

* Intelligant p<£nitentes, in confesdone peccata propria 
manifestanda esse, non autem alioruminquo abusus estmul- 
torum, ut enim aliqiiando detegant peccatnm, simul multa 
mpertinentia narrant peccata, vir uxoris, uxores virorum, 
domini servorum et servi dominorum, aliique denique ali- 
orum. — (S. Toletanus, Instruct., Sacerdot. ad Pooenit, 1. iii. 
c 6. art. 3.) 


tected as carefully as possible, uiilesis it be neces- 
sary for some usefhl purpose, or for the integrity 
of confession, to reveal such as are guilty of the 
same crimes." * 

Penitents .are likewise instigated to these de- 
nnndations by the questions of wicked priests 
who, through curiosity or intrigue, meddle with 
the private affairs of families. This was especially 
the practice of the Jesuits, by means of which 
they increased their power and riches ; it is, more- 
over, what they are employing at the present day 
to get back what they have lost. 

This inquisitorial art of penetrating into the 
most intimate secrets of families, though perfected 
by the Jesuits, was not, however, their own in- 
vention. At all times, corrupt and intriguing 
priests have been found meddling in worldly af- 
fairs, imder pretence of reli^on, in order to 
establish their dominion and to make themselves 

Scire volant secreta domus, atque inde timeri.t 

Saint Augustin speaks of denunciations made 
to the Church by women against their husbands. 
^* There are men," says he, "who secretly commit 
adultery in their houses. Their wives denounce 
them to us sometimes through jealousy, at other 

* Nicole, De la Confession. 
t Fetronius, 1, 4, 15. 


times having in view their husbands^ salvation." * 
The same father makes a public appeal to women, 
to apply, in such cases, to the Church. " Do not 
allow your husbands to indulge in fornication; 
protest to the Church against them.'' f Women 
have always been applied to as being inclined to 
reveal what they know, and to refiise nothing to 
those whom they look upon as the ministers of 
God. As much as they are withheld by modesty or 
shame from declaring to their confessors certain, 
acts which concern themselves personally, so much 
are they inclined to reveal the intimate secrets of 
connexions, and even what ought to remain con- 
cealed imder the sacred obligation of marriage. 

There exists a propensity and a certain neces- 
sity, in devout women, to enter into long and cir- 
cumstantial colloquies with their directors ; which 
often gives rise to confidences and declarations 
that lead from mysticism to acts of sacrilege. 
This is what Gerson complained of, when he said: 
"Their confessions are colloquies mingled with 
profane things ; would to God there w&ce nothing 
criminal I Would to God that what seems to have 

* Sunt homines adulter! in domibos suis ; in secreto pec- 
cant. Aliquando nobis producuntur ab nzoribus, plerumque 
zelantibus, aliquando maritorum salutem quoerentibus. — (S. 
August., de Verb. Domin, serm. xvi., c. 8.) 

f Noiite yiros vestros permittere fomicare: interpellate 
contra illos Ecclesiam. — (Id., Horn. 41, c. 4.) 


begun in the spirit may not end in the flesh! 
May Qt)d prevent worse crimes!"* "We might 
say to unmarried priests what Saint Francis said 
to his monks, in alluding to the nuns of Saint 
Clair : " I fear, my brethren, that whilst God has 
deprived us of women, the devil has given us 


This intimate confidence, this development of 
the sentiments of the heart and of the deepest re- 
cesses of the conscience, often produces wishes, 
and gives birth to a passion the more easily 
aroused, as it finds, in men who profess celibacy, 
only this simple means of being kindled without 
eclat. This is what is proved by experience, and 
what is owned by the Casuists, whom long experi- 
ence has initiated into these mysteries. Thus 
Escobar quotes, among the numerous facts of this 
kind which he says he had known, that of a con- 
fessor who had had an intimacy with three girls 
and their mother, after having seduced them at 
the tribunal of confession.} 

* Ad fabulationes yertunt confessiones suas, miscentes col- 
loquia de profanis, utinam non de nefariis ! utinam quse de 
flpiritu incepisse yidentnr, non commutent in came ! Fro- 
hibeat deteriora, Deus. — (Glerson., Trait., viii., part. 2.) 

t Timeo, firatres, ne Deus abstulerit nobis mulieres et 
diabolos dederit sorores. 

I Matrem et tres sorores virgines in acta sacramentali 
solicitas et stnpratas. — (Escobar, Tracta de Confess, solic. 
in exordio.) 




SuPEESTiTiON, which appears inherent in 
human nature, since it has reigned in every age 
among all nations, is, however, only the result of 
ignorance and prejudices transmitted firom age to 
age. The only remedy to be applied to this here- 
ditary evil would have been civil and religious 
instruction. But, on the one hand, governments, 
either through their indifference for the people, or 
. with the intention of brutalizing them, have left 
them to themselves, refusing them the enlighten- 
ment that was due; whilst, on the other hand, 
priests, whose ministry ought to be to lead men 
back to truth, have, from the same motives, been 
wanting in this imperative duty. 

It would, however, have been easy for them. 


especially for such as profess the Christian re- 
ligion^ to destroy fatal prejudices. Either through 
the authority and ascendancy afforded them by 
the tribunal of penitence, or by the public preach- 
ing which they exercise to the exclusion of all 
other persons, they were able, to attain this end, 
to fortify themselves with the light of reason and 
the precepts of religion. Yet superstitions, which 
a system of national education applied to one gen- 
eration might have destroyed for ever, have not 
ceased to prevail for eighteen centuries. Would 
it have been otherwise if the sacerdotal body, con- 
sulting only worldly interests, had sought to over- 
awe the people by ignorance and superstition ? 

This is an evil, however, which the councils 
have sought to remedy at different periods by pre- 
scribing laws to bishops and parish curates upon 
this very subject. Among a very great number 
of canons, we shall content ourselves with quoting 
the following : " The 42nd canon of the Council 
of Agde, in 506 ; the 31st canon of that of Or- 
leans, in 511 ; and one of the Council of Eome, 
presided over by Pope Gregory IL, held in 721. 
This last council pronounces, in its 12th canon, 
anathema against those who give superstitious 
preservatives, and against soothsayers, enchanters, 
and diviners."* We think we ought to quote the 

♦ Si quis ariolos, amspices, vel incantatores observaverit 
aut phylacteriis usus fuerit, anathema sit. 



Council of l^an, held in 1565, inasmuch as it specn- 
fies the different kinds of superstition which exist 
even at the present day throughout Christendonau 
These are the terms used by this council in ad- 
dressing the bishops, whom it commands to chastise 
severely and to excommunicate those who are 
addicted to these superstitious practices: f^Let 
them chastise and banish all those who take upon 
themselves to divine by air, earth, fire, or inani- 
mate things ; by the inspection of the nsdls and 
lineaments of the body ; by fate, dreams, the dead, 
and other means inspired by the devil to make 
people assure uncertain things as certain; all 
those who profess to predict the future, to dis- 
cover concealed things, hidden treasures, and other 
things of this nature, which serve to seduce easily 
simple or too inquisitive persons ; let them punish 
severely those who consult, in any matter, diviners, 
fortune-tellers, and every kind of magicians, who 
have advised other persons to consult them, or 
have put faith in them ; let heavy pimishments be 
inflicted on those who have made or sold rings, or 
any other things for magical or superstitious uses; 
let the astrologers who, from the movement, figure, 
or aspect of the sun, moon, and other stars, dare 
predict with certainty the actions which depend 
on the will of man^ be also severely punished, and 
let those who may have consulted them confidently 
upon this subject be liable to the same punish- 


ments; finally^ let the bishops punish all those 
who, on undertaking a journey, or in the com- 
mencement or progress of any business, observe 
the days, the time, or the moments, the cry of 
animals, the singing or the flight of birds, the en- 
countering of men or beasts, and thence draw an 
dmen of the success of their enterprise."* 

The saitne duty is imposed on curates by the 
Council of Malines, in 1607. " As the clownish 
multitude," says this council, ^^are often debased 
with superstitions through their ignorance, the 
curates ought to warn them against these errors, "f 
The fourth Coundl of Milan, held in 1577, re- 
commends the curates to inform the bishops of the 
superstitions with which they may be acquainted, 
in order that the latter may afford a remedy.} 

* Caeterosque omnes qui quoyis axtis magicoe et maleficii 
genere paetiones, et fcedera expresse, yel tadte cum doemon- 
ibus &ciunt, episcopi acriter puniant et e societate fidelium 
extenninant Deinde omnes diyinationem exaere, aqua, etc. — 
(Part. L, tit. 10.) 

f Et quoniam rudis populus soepe ex ignorantia super- 
stitiombus inquiuatur, paxoclii subditos suos diligenter de 
illis moneant et inter ccetera, etc. — (Cone. Medin., tit. xv., 
cap. 3.) 

I Parochi diligenter d rei invigilent, ac si quod super- 
stitioBum genus in sus parochios hominibus animadyertant 
id semper ante proximam synodum tempore, quod episcopus 
proestiterit, ad ilium in scriptis deferant ; ut ei male occurri 
opportune possit. — (Part. 1, cap. iy., tit. 15.) 


The CouncU of Toulouse^ in the year 1690, is 
still more precise when it commands the curates 
to make use of two efficacious means in their 
power, confession and preaching, in order to pre- 
serve the people from a malady so fatal to their 

But what have been the results of these rescripts 
so frequently addressed to bishops and curates ? 
They have been void ; ^ce the people have not 
ceased to be addicted to several of these super- 
stitions, which lead them often to enmities and 
occasionally to homicidal vengeance, as it has been 
proved by the judgments of tribunals, even in our 
own time. What, then, in this respect, has been 
the use of auricula^ confession ? It is philosophy, 
on the contrary, without either organisation, sup- 
port, parish pulpits, or tribunal of penitence — ^nay, 
persecuted even by intolerant priests and oppres- 
sive governments — ^which alone has effected a few 
changes, and destroyed many errors and preju- 
dices, at least among the higher classes of society. 

Have not enmities and persecutions been known 
to be excited, and violence, nay, even the pain of 

* Quae ignorantia simplidtate que hominum snpersdtiose 
depellendorum morbonim, aliarumqae rerum inanes obser- 
vationes temere irrepserunt, eas omnes sequent! abhortatione 
adductisque rationibus oonfessarii et condanotores a popu- 
lorum animis evellere et ab iis dedinari curabunt. — (Condi. 
Tolos., c xii.) 


deaths to be employed^ with the assistance of the 
secular power^ against those who refused to ac- 
knowledge this virtue of binding and loosing? 
What right has any one to pester a dying man, to 
demand confession-tickets to excommunicate phy- 
cddans, when they lend their professional assist- 
ance to a patient, if, at their first or second visit, 
they do not send for a priest ? This is what was 
prescribed, in 1567, by the Council of Siponto, in 
Italy.* It had already been commanded by the 
Council of Latran, under Innocent IIL;t by that 
of Tortosa, in 1428 ; and, lastly, by another coun- 
cil, held the same year at Paris, by Jean de Nan- 
ton, Archbishop of Sens, which prescribes to 
physicians to exhort their patients in danger to 
confess theii* faults, and not to give them any re- 
medies till they had made this exhortation — ^nay, 
even to refuse them every kind of assistance unless 
they comply with their invitation.^ 

It is by means of confession that a great num- 
ber of errors and prejudices, equally fatal to reli- 

* Medici post primam secundamve visitationem sub excom- 
manicationis poena, ad oegrotorum curationes non accedant, 
nisi certo cognoverit ipsos postquam in eum morbum inci- 
derunt de eorum peccatis idoneo confessori confesses. — (Con- 
di. Lepant.) [Lepanto is in Greece ; I cannot find that 
there ever was a council there. Lenglet de Fresney says 
there was a council at Siponto in 1567.] — TransL 

f Concil. Lateran., 1, 21. 

I Abrege Chron. de THist de France. 


gion, morafity^ and the happiness of those who 
submit to them, are propagated among Boman 

Besides, are the penances imposed by the priest 
in proportion to the evil or wrong produced by 
the sin? A few pater-nostersy psalms, or mecha- 
nical practices, are suflScient to tranquillize the 
<ionsciences of the greatest sinners. There is, it is 
true, another kind of penance which some persons 
inflict upon themselves, who, troubled with deep 
remorse, or maddened by an extravagant super- 
stition, or by the terror of everlasting pimish- 
ments, believe they can only effect their salvation 
by depriving themselves of the most innocent en- 
joyments, and condemning themselves throughout 
the course of their lives to macerations, sufferings, 
and employments as painful as they are fruitless. 
Thus it is that illusion, superstition, and the sug- 
gestions inspired in the confessional, lead some 
persons to believe that they will in this manner 
make amends for their transgressions, or even, 
without having committed any serious ones, that 
they have no other means of making themselves 
worthy of Divine mercy and of securing their sal- 

To demonstrate how very repugnant this system 
of penance — ^both in its severity and in its mildness, 
established by casuistical theologians — ^is to reason 
as well as to religion, it is sufficient to recal the 


motives which gav6 rise to it, and the modifi<»- 
tions it has undei^one according to times, places, 
drcnmstances, and the more or less severe or dis- 
solute character of confessors. There is but one 
true penitence salutary to him who practises it, 
and useful to all : it is to repair the harm and the 
wrong done to our neighbour, to cease to conunit 
any, and to seek every opportunity, according as 
circumstances and our means may permit, of being 
serviceable to all men. 

What is the object of those frequent ordinary 
confessions so strongly recommended, those details 
about imaginary faults and the most innocent ac- 
tions in life, which form the matter of confession, 
especially with women, if it be not to master con- 
sciences and keep them continually in a state of 
dependence ? Is it not for the selfsame purpose that 
those frequent general confessions are ordered 
and vainly reiterated to obtain a pardon, which 
has already been granted several times? Thus it 
is those scruples are raised which torment timor- 
ous consciences, without producing any benefit. 

Let us consider confession relatively to another 
of its inconveniences. 

Virgins, by being continually told that they are 
the brides of Jesus Christ, become superstitious — 
they imagine themselves to be divinely inspired; 
nay, they are led even so far as to commit sacri- 
lege, as we have shown by quoting several in- 
stances. How could the imaginations of those 


poor girls withstand the power of such illusions ? 
This is, however, a doctrine taught by several 
fathers of the Church, and propagated in all the 
ascetic books with which the minds of the nuns 
are intrusted Thus it is that they raise up fana- 
tics, like the one that appeared in Belgium in 1 100. 
This man, named Touchelin, having protested 
against the dissoluteness of the clergy and the 
abuses of the Koman Church, formed a sect, mar 
naged to be considered as a god, seduced women, 
and even armed the people to support his doctrine. 
Having assembled his partisans in a public square, 
and caused the image of the Holy Viigin to be 
brought, he solenmly espoused her. If women 
can be the brides of Jesus Christ, there can be no 
reason, he thought, why men should not be the 
bridegrooms of the Holy Virgin. 

Casuists have likewise introduced into confes- 
sion another kind of alliance no less extraordinary, 
between the devil under the human form, mascu- 
line with women, feminine with men. This doc- 
trine, a token of the grossest ignorance and super- 
stition, is still taught at the present day to the 
young Levites, who are to interrogate women at 
the tribunal of confession. We find it thus ex- 
pressed in a work by J. P. Mollet, a priest, and 
entitled : Compendium Theologies Moralis ad usum 
TheologicB Candidatorum^ superiorum permissu. 
1834. •* Intimacy with the devil," says this com- 
pendium, "if it exist, contains, besides the horror 


.of it, a perfectly espedal wickedness to be ex- 
pressed in confession — in confessionem exprimendam 
•—on account of the sin against religion, thus caused 
by familiarity with the most cruel enemy of God.*** 

Other practices, as fantastical as contrary to 
common sense and decency, have been ordered by 
popes and bishops. Thus the penitentiary of 
Bome, quoted by Baluze, in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, orders that a harlot shall be promenaded for 
forty days, stripped to the waist, and bearing on 
her head a (placard, whereon the sin of which she 
has been guilty shall be legibly written-f A ca- 
pitulary says ^^that a woman who has insulted 
another shall carry stones in her chemise at the 
procession on Sunday, if she will not pay the finest 

Another no less extraordinary custom is, that 
the confession of the living on the account of the 
dead, by declaring to a priest the sins which the 
latter had committed during their lives, was ad- 
mitted as eflBcacious. Peter the Venerable quotes 
on this subject the following example, which can- 

* Compendium^ &c., lib. iii., p. 37. 

t Quadraginta diebus per communia fora, nudo corpori 
ab usque ad umbilicum incedens, schedulam in delicto con- 
Bcriptam deferet in capite manifeste. — (Baluz., in Append ad. 
capit., col. 1563.) 

X Mulier quoa mulieri conyida dixerit ... si nummos 
solvere noluerit, lapidei ad professionem portabit, die domi- 
nica, ia camisia sua. — (Capitul., aim. 1223, apud Carpent., 
Nov. Gloss., verbo Frocessiones.) 


not be called In question^ since it relates to his 
own mother, ** who," says he, "placed herself upon 
her husband's tomb, and declared his sins, as well 
as those which she herself had committed during 
the whole course of her life. She continued to 
make this enumeration till about the middle of the 
night, as if it had been her husband himself who 
was speaking ; and, as if they had changed persons, 
the husband was the penitent through the medium 
of his wife."* 

The history of the Church, and especially the 
Lives of the Saints, present us with several facts, 
established even by miracles, according to which 
there exist, or at least have existed, direct com- 
mimications between the living and the dead, espe- 
cially relatively to absolution, or to the retaining 
of sins. Thus, after having corresponded with the 
inhabitants of the other world, it became still more 
easy to establish an epistolary confession — a name 
by which it was designated by the Casuists. 

Relations of this kind date even firom the fourth 
century, since Saint Basil, according to what Is 
stated by Saint Amphilochus, bishop of Icona, 
was the principal a<5tor during his life, and even 

* Ad confitendum conversa ordini ab initio et enarrare 
universa conjugis, et deinde propria peccata, sea crimina 
coepit, et confitendo ad mediam usque fere noctem processit. 
Loquebatur vel ut ore defuncti, et quasi mutatis personis in 
conjuge vir poenitebat. — (Pet. Verenab., lib. ii., epist. 17.) 


after his death, in an event of the same sort, which 
18 related as follows : ^' A woman, as distinguished 
by her birth as by her riches, wrote down all the 
flins she had conunitted from her. youth up to a 
very advanced age : she fixed her seal to this con- 
fession, and waited till Saint Ba^ came to say his 
prayers* She cast this paper at his feet, and fell 
on her knees, crying: 'Take compassion on me, 
O holy man of God 1' Basil, after having finished 
his prayers, opened the letter, in which he found 
no trace of writing, except that of a great sin of 
impiety : solum autem quoddam factum ejus im- 
pium, indeletum remansiL The bishop having re- 
turned this confession to the lady, and the latter 
having, a short time after, met the body of Saint 
Basil, which they were about to inter, cast her 
confession upon the coffin, relating to the people 
what had happened. A priest opened the letter, 
and said *that everything was effaced,'"* If this 
story should be called into question, it does not 
the less prove the custom of epistolary confession. 
Epistolary confession took place also without any 
miracle between living persons. This is con- 
firmed by another event, no less extraordinary, 
which happened at the close of the sixth century. 
A woman, of the island of Crete, having com- 
mitted an enormous crime of which she durst not 

* Biblioth. des PSres, t. iv., 101, &c. Edit, de Lyon. 


accuse herself verbally, wrote it on a paper, which 
she handed to Saint John the Almoner, a patri- 
arch of Alexandria; but the latter did not grant 
her a pardon till after he was dead. For this 
purpose he came out of his tomb, and gave the 
woman back her paper, upon which she found 
these words: "It is for the sake of John, my 
servant, that your sin has been forgiven,"* 

The city of Paris was, in days of old, the 
scene of a no less marvellous epistolary confes- 
sion: *^A young student, unable to confess by 
word of mouth, sent his confession in writing to 
a monk. The latter having opened the paper, 
found that all it had contained was effaced. Then 
the monks sent for the young man, and told him, 
shounnff him his paper, ^ that all his sins were fcr^ 

Though we could relate many other facts of the 
same kind, we shall confine ourselves to that of a 
bishop of Soissons, in 871, and to that of a bishop 
of Mans, in 873. The former wrote to Hincmar, 
archbishop of Kheims, a letter, in which he asked 

* Propter Joannem, servum meum, deletum est tuum 
magnam peccatum. — (In Vita S. Joan. Elemos. a Leoncius 
Epist. Nemozia.) 

f Mox nt abbas cartulam ad legendum aperuit, totam ejus 
oontinentiam deletam invenit . . . advocantes scbolarem, 
ostendemnt schedulam dicentes ejus peccata diyinitus esse 
deleta. — (Cesaire d^Heisterbach, Miracola, c. 10.) 


him for the remission of all his sins^ which was 
granted him, as we see in Hincmar's reply, where 
we find the following words : " May God, by his 
grace and omnipotency, and by virtue ci the Holy 
Ghost, forgive you all your ans. He being the 
source of all pardon; may He deliver you from 
every ill, preserve you in all goodness, and lead 
you to everlasting life, and to participate with 
saintly priests. Amen." * 

The latter bishop, known by the name of Robert 
XXIV., who had been guilty of great crimes, find- 
ing himself dangerously ill in bed, wrote to several 
bishops to ask them for absolution. Here are a 
few passages of his letter : — ** I am convinced that 
the wickedness of no man can equal that with 
which I have abandoned myself, from my youth 
to the most execrable crimes. Their number is 
infinite, for, if they be compared to those of other 
men, no person could be found to be so guilty. 
There exists no kind of sin to which I have not 
abandoned myself, or which does not make me de- 
serve to be scourged, or even burnt I I am fright- 
ened at the awful end which awaits me, and I dread 

* Gratia et omni potentia sua, virtute sancti spiritus, qui 
est remissio omnium peccatomm, dimittat tibi omnia peccata 
tna, liberet te ab omni malo, conservet in omni bono et per- 
ducat te ad vitam oetemam, et ad sanctorum sacerdotum con- 
sortium. Amen. — (Hinemar, Opera, Epist. 40, t. i., p. 686. 
Edit. Paris., 1645.) 


the Divine vengeance, which I deserve on account 
of the sins into which I have been hurried by the 
licentious suggestions of the flesh ; and if the mercy 
of God did not pardon me, he would justly be 
avenged on my crimes. For this reason, my mem- 
bers being inert, my body in dissolution, and hav- 
ing lost all my strength, I do not cease to implore 
your beneficent piety with my sobs and groans, in 
order that, by the power which you possess fix>m 
Heaven, you may deliver me from my sins, and I 
may be enabled, through your prayers, to escape 
hell, and be worthy, through your mediation, to 
participate in celestial feUcity," * 

The prelates, in answer to his request, sent him 

* Si quidem comprehendi nullios hominis valet solertia, 
quibus, a diebus adolescentiffi mese vicibus, execrabilia con- 
traxi opera. Excedunt enim pluribus sui numerorum fines, 
quia ad comparationem meorum peccaminum nuUus invenitar 
iniquus. NuUum quippe genus peccati invenire potest, cni 
me non subdiderem, quibusque fasdbus et loris non sim dr- 
cumdatus ! . . . Kunc ultimum vocationis mece diem inge- 
miscens, paveo, quia qius male cami consentiens perpetravi, 
digna ultione puniri pertimesco. Et nisi Dei dementia tole- 
raret, merito me jam pro meis sceleribus ultris yindicta 
uldsceretur. Id circo fessis artubus dissolutisque corporis 
basibus, omni yiscerum meorum valentia omissa, jHetatis 
vestrse misericordiam singultu interposito implorare non 
cesso, quatenus potestate verbis coelitus conlata, vincilla 
meorum piaculorum enodatis, et precum vestrarum studiis 
commissa mea petetis, ut cum reprobis non ducar ad Tar- 
tara, quin potius vestro interventu coelestia merear sublimari 
ad gaudia. — (Bondonnet, Vie des Ev^ques du Mans.) 


a letter^ in which they gave him an absolution^ 
conceived in nearly the same terms as that which 
we have just mentioned. This is what was then 
termed absolutio literaria^ and was very orthodox, 
since it was given, on this occasion, by a certain 
number of bishops : a very convenient practi<^, 
for, without leaving his chamber, or kneeling be- 
fore a priest; nay, without speaking to him or 
knowing him, a man could send to him by post, 
some three or four himdred leagues, a Ust of his 
sins, and receive absolution in the same way. But 
everything in the Church is modified, according to 
times and circumstances. Accordingly, this mode 
of confession was proscribed in 1602, by Clement 
YIIL, who excommimicated such as practised it, 
or either taught or maintained the proposition 
which we ^ve in the note.* 

We find a bishop who, believing one priest was 
not sufficient to cause the gates of heaven to be 
opened to him, applied to several at once. There 
was likewise a time when people believed that an 
absolution given by two priests was far more effi- 
cacious than if they received it only from one. 
Here is an instance recorded in the acts of Saint 
Gerard: "He hastened to call a priest, in order 
that he might put on the armour of Jesus Christ, 

* Licere per literas, sen internuntium, confessario absent! 
peccata sacramentaliter confiteri, et abeo absente absolutionem 
obtinere, et ad minus uti falsam, temerariam et scandalosam. 


and give him absolution for the sins he had com- 
mitted with a sinfiil woman. The priest, as is the 
custom^ called another priest, and, one Simday, they 
delivered him from the bonds of sin.** * 

We may judge of the rapidity with which confes- 
sions were made under certain circumstances, of the 
validity of absolutions given away by handfuls, as 
well as of the reality and efficacy of conversions, 
from accounts made by missionaries among Pagan 
nations. Thus, a father, named Fraes, ssudhe had 
heard more than thirteen thousand confessions ia 
one day, during his abode in Japan. Anotixer 
Jesuit, named Jarrius, boasted of having heard 
fifteen thousand in the same space of time. Some 
have been satisfied with fixing the number at five 
or six thousand. How many Christians remain^ 
after such prodigious zeal and labour? Not one. 

In the eleventh century, a system had been 
imagined of multiplying the number and the dura- 
tion of penances, ad infinitam ; thus it was that the 
priests made themselves masters of consdences. 
It was believed that every sin of the same kind 

* Vehementer vocari fedt quemdam clericum presbytemm 
. . . qui armis Christi se ab eo indueret ; et de criminibus 
seus, a Jesu Christo Domino, qui peccatori mulieri indulsit, 
ipsum presbytemm rogavit et eum abaolveret. Ipse pres- 
byter, sicut consuetum est, vocavit alium sacerdotem, sodum 
suum, et absolverunt eum a peccatorum vinculis, in die 
Dominico.— (Charta, an. 1080, quoted by Carpent., Nov. 
Gloss., verbo Poenitent.) 


deserved a particular penance. "A penance," 
says Fleury, ** was reckoned for every crime : 
thus, a man who had committed thirty homicides, 
and as many perjuries and adulteries, had enough 
for several centuries; and thence arose afterwards 
these indulgences of so many years, which we 
find in certain bulls. We know what were those 
penances — ^flagellations, and elicitations of psahns. 
There were sfiints in those times who devoted 
themselves to penance for others."* 

The organizers of auricular confession have 
been fruitfiil in penitential means. There was a 
time when they prescribed as penance cold baths 
to people fond of warm ones. Canons still exist 
which imposed cold baths upon the Anglo-Saxons, 
whilst they forbade them to take warm ones dur- 
ing the period of their penanccf 

It was likewise imagined that people might 
satisfy God^ by putting on the costume of some 
religious order : thus, girding the loins with the 
girdle of Saint Francis was a meritorous act. 
This practice was termed penitence de Saint Do- 
minique, or de Saint Frangois : they who submitted 
to it were under the protection of these monastic 
orders, and participated in the favours and privi- 
leges granted by the popes. We have seen in 

* Meury, Moeurs des Chretiens, 
f Johiison*s Canons, anno 963. 


the cities of Spain^ men, women, and even chil- 
dren rigged out in these ensigns. 

But the clergy, after having modified penance 
finder different forms, had recourse, in order to 
conquer the opposition brought against their 
yiews and orders, to a means directly opposed to 
the precepts and spirit of the Grospel, that of 
material constraint ; a system which became intro- 
duced at the very origin of the corruption of 
Christianity, and which the Church has persever- 
ingly supported till the present day. ** I find in 
Spain," says Fleury, ** forced penances, as early 
as the seventeenth century, the bishops seeing 
that several sinners never came to submit to pen- 
ance, complained of it in the parliaments, and 
entreated the princes, to oblige them to it by their 
temporal power." * He quotes on this subject the 
2nd and 6th canon of the Council of Tibur, in 
895, and the sixth canon of that of Toledo. "I 
reckon," adds the same historian, "among forced 
penances, those prohibitions which the bishops 
made to impenitent sinners, to eat meat, wear 
linen, ride on horseback, or to do other such 
things." t 

This violence is a right of the Church, since it 
is authorized by the canons and by one of the most 

* Fleury, Discours sur Y Hist. Ecdes., disc, iii., § 16. 
t Id., ibid. 


clever orthodox Casuists. This father of the 
Church does not hesitate to affirm that a penitent 
ought to turn monk, if he be so ordered by his 
confessor, who, according to him, cannot be mis- 
taken in anything he orders. " It appears," says 
he, ^^ that if a confessor should order anybody to 
enter into holy orders, he is bound to obey, inas- 
much as this submission is prescribed by certain 
canons ; and, likewise, whatever be the severity of 
the penance, even for a trifling sin, the penitent is 
obliged to submit to it. 

It is because the priest commands as having the 
key of knowledge and the authority of a divine 
judgment, exempt from the errors of humanity." * 

This pretended right of violence, which, to be 
put in practice in our time, would require only a 
government submissive to the orders of the clergy, 
has just been proclaimed, at the very moment we 
are writing, in a long and verbose mandate, by 
the Cardinal de Bonald, to condemn the Manuel 

• Videtur, quod si sacerdos injungat alicui quod intret 
in religionem, tenetur facere, proecipue quia quidam canones 
videntur istam poenitentiam taxare . Et similiter quod, quan- 
tumque magnam poenitentiam pro peccato parvo, injungat 
poenitentiam, poenitens facere tenetur. Et dicendum quod 
hoc intelligendum est de his quae sacerdos in quantum hahet 
clavem scientiae et auctoritatis, per divinum judicium, et non 
secundum humanum errorem, injungit. — (Thomas, iv., sent. 
D. 16. In exposit. text.) 



du droit public eccUsiastiquej written by M. I>aplii. 
This clever jurisconsult states in his work that 
" the Church has not the right to constrain by 
force or corporeal punishment." To which the 
Archbishop of Lyons replies : " This proposition 
is false; brought forward several times by the 
enemies of the Church, it has been several times 
condemned" It is evident that if the bishops had 
bayonets at their disposal, they would well know 
how to silence the enemies of the Church, and 
impose a good penance upon them. 

But another penance which the clergy have, at 
all times, found means to impose, at least upon 
such as believe in them, is pecuniary penance, 
poBJiitentia argentea, as we have already said, al- 
though this underhand simony has been proscribed 
by the councils, and — which is more remarkable — 
by the popes themselves. We have quoted, and 
could continue to quote an uninterrupted series of 
instances of confessions in which the priest re- 
ceives a direct salary for the sacramental con- 
fession which he administers. Even at the present 
day, when a priest is called to the bed-side of a 
dying person, does he not find a compensation, at 
least among persons in easy circumstances ? This 
is not, I say once more, the way in which the early 
Christians understood religion. Fleury, whom 
we have just quoted, seeks to palliate this practice 
even while condemning it. " In order," says he. 


•* to render penance more sensible, pecuniary fines 
were added, which were exacted before absolution 
was given, and, provided they were paid, the rest 
of the penance was easily passed over."* 

Lastly, a thirst for lucre has caused a hundred 
kinds of superstitions to be invented, which, 
grounded upon the penitentiary system of auricu- 
lar confession, has enriched the treasures of the 
Church. Such are the sale of indulgences, relics, 
images, scapularies, crosses, chaplets, consecrated 
medals, and privileged churches and altars. These 
means of redeeming sins have been so multiplied, 
that it would be an easy matter to draw out of 
purgatory, in the space of a year, a number of 
souls far more considerable than that of the per- 
sons who die in the course of a century. 

Bemunerations attached to the celebration of 
masses, that is to say, of the most venerable 
mystery of Catholicism, — ^the august sacrifice for 
the redemption of mankind, — ^have become, in the 
hands of the secular and regular clergy, an inex- 
haustible source of riches since the introduction of 
the doctrine of a purgatory, whence souls may be 
delivered by the prayers of a priest. We think 
we ought to submit to the reader, on this head, 
some observations and a calculation presented to 
the Grand Duke Leopold, about the masses daily 
said in Tuscany. 

* Fleury, Discours sur THist Ecclls., disc, iv., § 15. 


" K it were trae," says the author, " that a de- 
liveranoe from purgatory was effected every time 
a privileged mass is said, whether the privilege de- 
pended on the person celebrating, or was attached 
to the place where it is celebrated, purgatory 
would always be void of inhabitants; nay, there 
must be even a long credit accoimt of friture de- 
liverances for souls not yet plunged into those 
transitory flames. In every parish church, the 
high altar is privileged by an indulgence of Cle- 
ment XIIL; there is always one of the same 
kind in every church of regular monks, provided 
it has seven altars, and in every other church the 
privilege exists at least for one of the days in the 
week. "He number of priests who possess a per- 
sonal privilege is very great. According to cal- 
culation, the privileged masses which are said every 
day in the single city of Florence and in the dio- 
cese amount to several himdreds; they, conse- 
quently, far surpass the number of persons who 
die daily. The same proportion exists throughout 
the rest of the Catholic imiverse." * 

But do they always celebrate the masses for 
which they are paid ready money ? M. Llorente 
gives us an evident proof that this is not always 
the case. " Friar Juan de la Vega," says he, in 
his " Critical History of the Inquisition," " being 

^ Memorial of the senator Eucellai, made for Leopold. 


summoned before the tribunal of the Inquisition 
(for having seduced the nuns of a monastery) 
avowed that he had received^ as provincial of the 
Carmelites, money for eleven thousand eight hun- 
dred masses which had not been said." 




If the remonstrances and councils of a confessor 
are sufficiently powerful upon the minds of some 
persons to lead them back to a more regular course 
of life, daily experience proves that such cases are 
extremely rare, and that even those who confess 
the most frequently are not less subject to sin than 
those who never go to the confessional Either con- 
version occurs before a man applies to a priest, or 
it never takes place. What should we think of a 
person who, offending some potentate every day, 
should come every day into his presence to avow 
his transgressions without ever ceasing to commit 
the same offences ? 

This is precisely the case of those who habitu- 
ally reiterate their confession, without ever amend- 


ing; it is a mockery, or, if they vnil, an incon- 
sistency to which they are led by erroneous ideas 
of duty, by prejudice, habit, or the fear of public 
opinion, and often merely with a view to worldly 
interests. But all these causes and motives are 
incapable of producing real and permanent amend- 

He who, on examining himself, knows he has 
violated the divine laws, will change his conduct 
if he conceive a sincere repentance; he will be- 
come virtuous without being under the necessity 
o£ having recourse to a priest or a Casuist ; for, if 
you did not impose ima^nary duties and obligations 
upon him, he would easily discern good from evil, 
^d could, from the mere impulse of his con- 
science, avoid the one and practise the other. If, 
moreover, any one should not believe himself able 
to direct himself alone in the paths of virtue ; if he 
should think he needs counsel, could no other per- 
son be found capable of giving it but the man- 
datory of a bishop, who has but just left his semi- 
nary? Happily, there exist enough honest men, 
enlightened by study and experience, for you to 
be able to find some one to whom you may apply, 
without being under the absolute necessity of 
having recourse to your parish priest. It is, then,^ 
both wiser and more prudent to renoimce a prac- 
tice which, without possessing any real advan- 
tages, presents serious inconveniences.. 


The irregularities and the corruptions of morals 
produced by auricular confession are the more se- 
rious as the administration of this practice is 
entrusted to persons who, notwithstanding the gift 
of grace, are not less liable than other men to an 
inclination innate in all living beings. Nay, they 
are the more exposed to gratify this inclination, 
as, on the one hand, they are imable to satisfy it 
rationally, through the opposition they meet with 
in laws, prejudices, and in public censure, yield- 
ing more easily than the temperate man, placed 
in ordinary circumstances ; and, on the other hand, 
the priest, receiving at an age when his passdons 
are the most active an instruction which makes 
him familiar with vice, must be led into it more 
easily. But the danger becomes still more immi- 
nent when what he had at first considered only 
theoretically is every day realised in his mind: 
the example of so captivating a vice presenting 
itself every instant before his eyes, and seeming to 
be authorised by an almost general practice, causes 
him to yield the more easily as he finds frequently 
the opportunity, without fearing to compromise 
either his reputation or his profession. 

Auricular confession, though very inconvenient, 
would have been fraught with less danger, at 
least as far as relates to morals, if it had been 
entrusted to married priests. But marriage, which 
might make priests moral characters and preserve 


them from danger, has been proscribed. The 
Bpecies of horror and the criminality attached to 
marriage were established in the earlier ages of 
Christianity by a few enthusiasts or fanatics ; the 
absolute abstinence of the sexes and an exag- 
gerated sterile chastity were recommended and 
ever commanded as the most perfect, the first, and 
most meritorious of virtues. Thence originated 
that useless and fatal race of monks, which has 
become the more pernicious, as it has strayed 
from its primitive institution, for it has ultimately 
descended to be nothing more than a papal instru- 
ment. Accordingly, we see that, in contradiction 
to the canons and the ancient discipline of the 
Church, the popes have invested monks with the 
right of directing and absolving souls. History 
tells us the use they have made of it. 

This monkish celibacy has not been less fatal 
since its introduction among the regular clergy, 
and in consequence of the adoption of this same 
doctrine among the laity. It is this especially 
that has contributed to propagate a vice now 
become general in both sexes, as is affirmed by 
priests, who are better able to answer for it from 
a long exercise of auricular confesaon, or by per- 
sons who have been enabled to verify it from the 
inquiries they have made on this subject. This is 
what is said by one of the most renowned of the 
practical Casuists : ^^ This is a sin very difficult to 


be corrected, because the opportunity is ever pre- 
sent to the individual ; and it is so general, that I 
am inclined to believe that it is the cause of the 
damnation of the greater part of mankind."* The 
remedy given by this phydcian of souls is singular 
enough: it consists in confessing three times a 
week, if posdble : Utfiat (ocmfessio) ter in hebdo^ 
mada^ si fieri potest But experience proves the 
inefficacy of the sacrament ; many a perscm con- 
fesses every month — every week, without correct- 
ing himself of his bad habits. Better remedies 
for this evil might be found; such as paternal 
surveillance and education, so oppodte to those 
of the coU^es, where confession is, however, an 
obligatory prescription of scholastic discipline; and 
such also as the councils of fidendship and reci- 
procal confidence between children and relations, 
the representation of the fiital consequences of 
these bad habits, and the restoring to marriage 
the consideration which fanaticism grants to 

If everything that passes in convents were 
known, we should see that confession, more fre- 
quent in those houses than their changing their 
linen, is not a preservative against bad morals, 

'*' Est autem hoc peccatum difficiUimse emendationis, quia 
occasio fere semper est cum homine, et est adeo universale, ut 
crederim maximam partem damnatorum hoc fieri peccato. — 
(F. Toletanus, Instit. Sacerdot^ ad Poenit, 1. v., c 13, art. 10.) 


whereas it has been more than once the means of 
introducing them^ as the reader has had an oppor- 
tunity of judging from what has been said. The 
inquiries we have made on this subject, in France 
and abroad, induce us to believe that there exists 
in those establishments of recluse celibataires more 
irregularities than is generally believed. Were it 
possible to remove entirely the veil which shrouds 
those melancholy abodes, what should we not 
see ? For it is lawful to judge of the unknown 
by what is already known. 

How is it posdble that these imfortunate vic- 
tims, at an age of the most complete credulity 
and inexperience, seduced and deceived by the 
interested or erroneous suggestions of their relar 
tions — ay, often through confession — should not 
be led astray into vice, when, the instinct of 
nature developing itself in its full energy, happens 
to make them reflect upon their sad and de- 
plorable situation ? 

The penalties enacted by the coimcils against 
the irregularities which have prevailed in the con- 
v^its for ages, lend their support to what we ad- 
vance, and prove that confession does not even 
check vice in those abodes of sanctity. According 
to a synod held in 742, if a nun committed herself, 
sl\e was scourged with rods three different times, 
and put in prison; she was also subjected to a 
penance of bread and water for a whole year. The 


sixth general Council of Constantinople deposes 
the bishopsj priests, deacons, and undeinieacons 
convicted of amours with nuns. Laymen were 
likewise excommimicated for the same sin. 

Although we have amply demonstrated, in the 
preceding chapters, the dangers and criminal 
abuses of sacerdotal confession, it will not be un- 
seasonable, considering the importance of the sub- 
ject, to adduce other facts and observations confir- 
matory of the same opinion. 

Erasmus, well versed in theological controver- 
sies, informs us, though very reservedly, of the 
irregularities which were practised in his day, that 
is, about the middle of the sixteenth century. 
" Penitents,'' says he, " often fall into the hands of 
priests who, under the pretence of confession, 
commit acts which are not fit to be mentioned ; 
they who ought to correct morals become the 
accomplices — ^the teachers and disciples of de- 
bauchery. Would to God that my warnings were 
unfounded, and that there did not exist every- 
where so many examples of these irregularities, oi 
which I speak only in sorrow, and cannot mention 
without blushing." * The same writer very wisely 

'*' Confitentes in eos scepe sacerdotes incidere, qui sub 
proeteztu confessionis patrant non referenda, proque medicis, 
finnt aut socii, aut magistri, aut discipuli turpitudinis. 
Utinam yidear hoc frustra monuisse, ac non tarn multa pas- 
sim exempla occurrerent ; quae nee sine dolore recordari, nee 


observes that confession tends to deprave the mo- 
rals of young priests by the detailed accounts of 
obscenities which excite their curiosity and inflame 
their passions. They converse of these things 
with their penitents, or with their fellow-ecclesi- 
astics, which talk leads necessarily to eviL The 
knowledge of the general corruption tends to cor- 
rupt them ; these shameful practices being every 
day presented to their minds. The irregularities 
of the priests, which the clergy and even govern- 
ments so carel^y conceal, tran^ire nevertheless ; 
and these examples deprave the laity. Erasmus 
adds to these observations that, in his youth, he 
had known harlots applaud their own irregularities, 
because they had heard a curate say that priests 
had confessed, at the time of the jubilee, of having 
seduced their penitents.* " People justify their 
crimes," continues the same author, ^^ when they 
see a great number of people committing more 
enormous ones. Thus, a priest addicted to liber- 
tinism, justifies his own bad conduct when he learns 
that others have committed more monstrous crimes; 
and, the more so, when he knows that men who 
make a profession of sanctity and chastity are 
guilty of the greatest debauchery." Erasmus says, 

sine pudore passim referre.^Erasmus, Exomologia, seu 
modus confitendi, p. 129.) 

* Erasmus, Exomologia, p. 153. 


in the same place^ that a theologian had related 
to him that he had heard a priest — a director of a 
convent of nuns — ^boasting that he had seduced 
two hundred virgins, and that this theologian jus- 
tified his own bad conduct by this example.* 

The authors best informed on this subject, those 
even whose morals were most dissolute, testify 
how very frequent the solicitations of the confes- 
sors were with their penitents. Listen to the 
language of the famous Casuist Escobar: ^^In 
these calamitous times, we have frequently seen 
the sacred sanctuary, where the remisdion of sins 
is given, defiled^ which ought to make us fear a 
signal vengeance of the Lord upon his ministers.''t 
And again : ^^ This- enormous crime has spread to 
such an extent in these days, that everybody ought 
to oppose it with all his might, and apply a fit 
remedy, "t He say8> moreover, that people often 
see ^^ priests confess, celebrate mass, and lead at 
the same time a licentious life, being addicted to 
the sins of the fle8h."§ 

* Erasmus, Exomologia, p. 154.) 

t Nefas calamitosis his temporibus ita actum et soepius 
patratum, est sanctum confessionis lavacrum obscienitatibus 
pollutum vidisse, ut magna in suos supema timeri potuit 
ultio. — (Escob., Tract de Confess., sollicit. in exord., p. 1, 
col. 1.) 

X Hoc enorme facuius hac nostra in tempestate in tantum 
crevisse, ut debeant omnes pro viribus ei occurrere et ad hoc 
remedia opportuna opponere. — (Id., ibid., part, ii., qusest. 2.) 

§ Sacerdotes confessorios accedere qu€Ktidie ad sacram con- 


This kind of crime appears to have been very 
common before the reformation of Luther, to 
judge from what is said by the writers of that pe- 
riod. It vnll be sufficient to bring forward the 
testimony of Dalle, an English theologian, who 
published, in 1661, a special treatise on confession. 
" The partisans of confession," says he, " cannot 
deny the shameful abuse which several priests and 
penitents made of this institution in former days, 
and which they make of it even now. On this 
accoimt a great many persons have fallen into the 
most serious sins. Auricular confession formerly 
occasioned great scandal — ^it causes it at the pre- 
sent day, and vnll not cease to produce it as long 
as it shall exist. Priests well know the shameful 
compacts that are often the result of the secret 
conversations which pass in that place of darkness. 
How desirable would it have been for many women 
that confession had never been instituted !" * Con- 

fessionem, sacrumque facere, et simal inhonestam yitam agere 
flagitiis camis deditos. — (Escob., Tract de Confess., in ezord., 
1 acta.) 

* Ipsi negare non possunt quin plurimi et sacerdotes et 
peccatores hoc instituto soepe turpiter et abusi sunt olim et 
nunc etiam abutuntur : quim multi exejus occasione in gra- 
vissima peccata lapsi sunt. . . . Quss confessio tarn multa 
scandala et peperit jampridem et quotidie parit et in posterum, 
quandiu retenebitur, paritura est. Sciunt ipsi quam turpes 
scepe fiant in illius arcani colloquii latebris nundinationes, 
quamque multis mulieribus optandum fuerit numquam esse 
confessionem. — (Dallius, p. 170 et 171.) 


feasors themselves acknowledge that their exhor- 
tations do not check the dissoluteness of morals. 
Erasmus relates on this subject that a Franciscan 
monk, whilst preaching in a town, said that a 
mountain formed of flint-stone would not be suffi- 
cient to stone adulterers to death, if the ancient 
law of Moses were still in use.* 

Moreover, these monstrous abuses, which have 
existed and still exist among Boman Catholics in 
Europe, are still more numerous in regions little 
frequented by Europeans, for the curb of public 
opinion and other equally powerful motives act 
there but feebly. There are among the mis- 
sionaries, especially when they spring ftom the 
monastic orders, many bad priests, who do not 
lose any opportunity of giving themselves up to 
their dissolute inclinations. We find in the cor- 
respondence of Bicdi, bishop of Fistoia, a letter 
from a Paulist monk, in 1798, who says, in speak- 
ing of the convents of either sex in the Portuguese 
possessions, " The regular priests had become the 
bonzes of Japan, and the nuns the disciples of 
Diana ; their convents were seraglios for the 
monks, as I have proved, when at Lisbon, by po- 
sitive facts, and by showing that the nuns were 
more freqently mothers than abandoned women." f 

* Erasm.. Exomologesis, p. 153. 

f Tregolari erano divenuti gli bonzi di Giapone e le mo- 


The grand argument used by the partisans of 
auricular confession is^ that it discovers and re- 
presses the crimes which are beyond the reach of 
the tribunals; whence result great advantages 
relatively to public order and the security of indi- 
viduals. To thia it may be answered, that they 
who are in the habit of committing great crimes 
seldom accuse themselves of them ; and even when 
they do, they declare only those for which they 
are sure of obtaining absolution. We never find 
in these persons any sincere or permanent amend- 

J£ any one will take the trouble to analyse auri- 
cular confession, he will see that it grants full 
scope and an actual impunity to the greatest 
crimes. Do confessors ask the mighty to give an 
account of their conduct — ^the mighty who commit 
the most manifest infractions of the natural law 
and the most precise and obligatory precepts of the 
Gospel ? Did the founder of the Christian religion, 
who has comprehended his whole law in the pre- 
cept of charity and in the virtues which neces- 
sarily emanate from it, exempt from it those men 
who inherit power and riches ? Did he not say 
that his kingdom is not of this world ? Did he 

nache discepole di Diana, e loro monasteri, li serragli dei 
r^olari, come ho provato in questa coste, co &tti espressi 
delle monache che partoriscano piil che le donne cattiye. — 
(Potter, Vie de Ricci, ii., 474.) 


not cast his malediction upon the rich ? Yet you, 
who pretend to be invested with a power equal to 
his, approve by your silence, nay, you even ab- 
solve the most revolting misdeeds of the powerful 
and wealthy. 

Examine history, and see what has passed from 
the days of Theodosius down to the present time. 
You will find kings and princes who, in their con- 
quests and imjust wars, have sacrificed to their 
ambition and pride the blood and money, not of a 
single individual, but of several millions of men, 
and who have ravaged, wasted, and reduced 
whole provinces to misery. You do not consider, 
therefore, these deeds as robberies and murders, 
once you remain silent, nay more, approve, ap- 
plaud, and absolve in the very act of crime! 
Every year, every month, every day, you hear 
and direct the guilty with your counsels, and you 
give them, on their leaving your confessional, the 
bread which you have just consecrated. Yet you 
say you are set over us to enlighten and conduct 
the consciences of princes and the proud ones of 
the earth, into the paths of true religion, and that 
they owe you an unlimited submission ! If there 
ever was a case, this was one on which to employ 
your compelle illos intrarey and your anathemas, of 
which you have known how to make so good a 
use, whenever there was any question of worldly 


But why do you never rise against that thirst 
after riches^ that material interest which debases, 
degrades, and corrupts, and which Jesus Christ 
never ceased to reprove ? How can you quietly 
witness the incessant spoliation of the people, to 
satisfy the luxury and licentious pleasures of that 
crowd of servile courtiers, greedy flatterers, insa- 
tiable mistresses, men ever ready to sell their con- 
^iences and their native land, monopolists and 
stock-jobbers, who are incessantly specidating 
upon the public fortune and the ruin of indi- 
viduals? Do you believe that theft consists only 
in stealing private property, and that a powerftJ 
or cunning man who appropriates to himself, by 
force or stratagem, public or private money, is not 
guilty of a real larceny, merely because, having 
the authority of unjust laws, or the protection of 
a corrupt government, he can do so with impu- 
nity ? Do you believe that God will not call that 
crowd of inveterate sinners to account, merely be- 
cause none is demanded by you or by the world ? 
Suppose the world willing to do so, it cannot ; you 
can, but you wiU not: you comfort their con- 
sciences by your criminal winking at their mis- 

How can you expect men to put faith in your 
religion, when they see you, throughout a long 
series of years, ever reiterating absolution to 
princes, influential men, constantly adidterers or 


fornicators, and who, by their contagious example, 
multiply, ad infinitum^ vices of this description? 
Are, then, these persons, whom you place beyond 
all virtue, not subject to be deprived of the unlaw- 
ful pleasures of the flesh ? 

Do you believe also that you can, with a safe 
conscience, give absolution to those legislators — 
those ministers who, in proposing or voting enor- 
mous budgets, a great part of which is employed 
in corruption, in salaries disproportioned to the 
labour and merits of the timctionaries, in a com- 
plicated administration organized for the purpose 
of multiplying servile creatures ? Do you believe 
those legislators have acqidred the right of filching 
from the people the fruit of their labour, which is 
often not sufficient to procure them absolute ne- 
cessaries, to live and support their fiunilies, know- 
ing that such funds, instead of being employed 
solely for the welfiixe and service of the country, 
will be sweated down, become the prey of intrigue, 
and serve to feed the luxury and pleasures of a 
few privileged men of an idle, selfiish, and corrupt 
aristocracy? Is this what you call evangelical 
justice, charity, and brotherly love ? Who would 
not believe it, since you remain silent upon so 
manifest a violation of the law of Christ, absolve 
the spoilers every day, and are incessantly de- 
claiming in your homilies, mandates, writings, and 
newspapers, against philosophers^ who, nevertheless. 


reject all the iniquities of which we have just 
spoken, but who, ujifortunately, have received no 
authority from heaven, as you have — ^if we are to 
believe you — ^to make them cease ? You openly 
proscribe from your religion those whom you term 
heretics ; act then in the same way towards such 
as violate the law of the Gospel in a more formal 
and more criminal manner. Do not surround 
them, from their cradle to their tomb, with the 
prestiges of a religion which they despise every 
day, and in which, for the most part, they do not 
believe. Do not receive from their hands sums of 
money for profanations which accuse you, or for 
services that you owe only to a sincere believer, 
and to such as correct themselves of their faults 
by an equally sincere repentance. 

We cannot pass over in silence a scandal which 
has been displayed, for more than two centuries 
before the face of Europe, in the classic land of 
Catholicism, and which undoubtedly owes its con 
tinuance to auricular confession — we mean the 
practice of adultery, tacitly received as lawful al- 
most throughout Italy, especially in Rome, Flo- 
rence and Naples. We ourselves, from travelling 
three times into that country, one of which jour- 
neys dates from sixty years ago, have found this 
custom, denominated Cicisbeismy especially estar 
blished among persons of the higher classes of so- 
ciety. A husband and a wife observe together 


the laws of marriage during the first year; but it 
is a thing of course, when this period has elapsed, 
for the wife to take a lover under the name of 
CicisbeOy and the husband becomes the cavaliere 
servente of another woman. This anti-social prac- 
tice is authorised by the priests, who constantly 
^ve absolution to the persons who present them- 
selves, in th^se cases, at a confessional; and this, 
not once a year, but ten or twelve times, if de- 
votion induces the guilty parties to enjoy the 
benefit of the grace attached to this sacrament. 
Such are the fruits of this confession, so beneficial 
to morals I 

In order the better to make the reader com- 
prehend the fatal effects of Cicisbeismy we will 
quote an author, who thus presents its conse- 
quences : — 

"The peace of families," says Sismondi, ** was 
banished from all Italy — no husband any longer 
regarded his wife as a faithful companion asso- 
ciated with his existence; no man any longer 
found in her a support in adversity, a saviour in 
danger, a comforter in despair; no father durst 
affirm that the children who bore his name were 
his own, and no one any longer felt himself tied to 
his child by the sentiments of nature. Incessantly 
annoyed in his own house by the friend of his wife, 
and separated from a part of his family pent up in 
convents, he was considered only as the adminis- 


trator of his fortune ; and it was not because 
women had lovers, but because it became a law 
that they must have them, that the Italians ceased 
to be men." * 

The inutility of confession may likewise be de- 
monstrated by comparing the state of morals in 
coimtries where the Reformation is established 
with that of places under the dominion of Soman 
Catholicism. If we find vices and crimes in the 
former, they are certainly not more numerous 
than in Catholic countries, which ought to be the 
case if, as it is pretended, confession was a curb to 
human passions. The man who is suflSciently 
corruj)t to commit a crime with premeditation will 
go to the confessional, if he be accustomed to do 
so, or if he believe it to be for his interest, and 
will likewise return there after he has committed 
it. So far from dreading that tribunal he will 
present himself with the hope, and even with the 
certainty, of receiving absolution. 

The opinion of those about us, together with 
the certainty of undergoing the punishment in- 
flicted upon crime by human laws, are far more 
potent to restrain men than ever were the threats 
of any religion whatsoever. The proof is, that he 
who will never commit this or that action before 
men, does not hesitate to do so when he thinks he 
is seen only by God. Accordingly, the violation 
* Sismondi, Hist, des Repub. d*Ital. 


of religious laws is infinitely more common and 
frequent than the infraction of those inscribed in 
our codes. The dread of an immediate and cer- 
tain punishment is far more powerful than that of 
one dimly seen in a distant future, which, for the 
most part, produces only a weak and momentary 
impression on the mind. 

K auricular confession, as experience proves, has 
no influence upon the conduct of men, with the 
exception of a few very rare particular cases — ^if 
it be not, as we have shown, of divine origin, it is 
evident that it has been instituted only for the 
interest of the priesthood, to deify them in some 
measure, to give them a superiority over their fel- 
low men, and subject them to their dominion. The 
head must bow, and the knee bend, before Him who 
has the power of consigning you to an abode of 
everlasting horrible torture, or of opening for you 
the gates of the kingdom of heaven. How can 
men who share this opinion help considering priests 
as superior to other men? How can such men 
help submitting to their laws, which, according to 
them, are only the expression of those of God? 
Does not the most powerful monarch of the earth, 
when he falls down at their feet, bows his head be- 
fore them, and conforms to their orders, acknow- 
ledge, by this very act, his own inferiority ? How 
can we afterwards be surprised at sacerdotal pre- 


We are lost in astonishment when we consider 
the action of auricular confession, which, like 
merely mechanical invention, consists of two opera- 
tions, succeeding each other uninterruptedly, but 
at longer or shorter intervals. Now a man gives 
himself up to the inclinations and vices of which 
he has contracted a habit, then he presents him- 
self at a tribunal, before a judge in whom he ac- 
knowledges a virtue powerful enough to restore 
him to a state of purity in which he need no longer 
fear an avenging justice : it is thus he is led astray 
by habit, superstition, and the passions, into a 
vicious circle, where he turns round continually 
without knowing either where he is going, or where 
he will ultimately arrive. Without being filled 
with sincere repentance, which can proceed only 
from a boundless love for the oiFended Being, he 
has no other sentiment but that of terror ; and he 
believes it is sufficient not to be indifferent towards 
the sovereign judge, who must abide by the sacer- 
dotal decision and prescription. Thus, the con- 
science reposes upon the word attrition — a barba- 
rous, vague, and indeterminate expression, in- 
vented by the Casuists of the middle ages.* But, 
as to any sincere regret for having offended God, 
or any wish to satisfy his justice by genuine peni- 

* Attritioms nomen scripturis et patribus incognitum. — 
(Estius, lib. iy., sent., dist. 16, § 9.) 



tence, that is to say, by an amendment and the 
practice of real virtue, he cares but little about it 
Saint Bonaventura said to the sinners of his time 
what might be addressed to those of our own: 
" Where is penitence ? Who feels in these days 
any regret for having offended God ? A man feels 
more keenly the loss of his ass I For, in such a 
case, he goes about to seek for him; but, after 
losing God, he seeks not for Him till after a long 
space of time."* 

Penitence among the earlier Christians, though 
very severe, was considered as void when it was 
not attended with a change of life; ** Penitence 
is void," says Tertullian, ** when we do not correct 
ourselves, "t The same doctrine is professed by 
the other fathers of the Church. Saint Isidorus 
says on this subject : ** He who does what he has 
already repented of, and submits not to God, in- 
sults Him with arrogance. "J 

The Church of Rome, which alone pretends to 
derive her origin from an apostolic succession, 

* Ubiestpoenitentia? QuishodiedoletsiDeumoffendit? 
Vere plus dolet si asinum perdidit ? Quia asino perdito, mox 
eum quoerit ; sed Deo perdito et per tempora longissima, non 
requirit. — (S. Bonavent., serm. '2.) 

t Ubi emendatio nulla, poenitentia nulla. — (Tert., de 
Poenit., c. 2.) 

t Irrisor est non poenitens, qui adhuc agit quod poenitet, 
nee videtur Deum poscere subditus, sed subsannare superbus. 
— (Isid. de Sevill., lib. ii., senten., c. 165.) 


from Saint Peter down to the present time, and 
grounds the proof of her doctrine upon an unin- 
terrupted tradition, appears, however, to have en- 
tirely forgotten the principles according to which 
the Apostles and their inunediate successors 
governed the Churches, especially in matters of 
confession and penance. As these things were 
required only for great crimes, they rejected from 
their community all such as did not conform to 
the law of their founder, having no other aim but 
that of forming a society of men who would prac- 
tise with sincerity and constancy every Christian 
virtue, without any regard to the number of dis- 
ciples. But the Roman Church, having become 
preponderant from her nimierous usurpations, 
aimed only at extending her dominion. By ima- 
gining a new system of confession and penance, by 
augmenting the catalogue of sins and modifying 
their nature, and by reserving to herself the right 
of giving or refusing absolution, she has grasped 
the consciences of nations and of kings. For this 
purpose it was necessary to render pardon as easy 
as sin is attractive. One would think she had 
wished to make a sport of the laws of the Gospel. 
Can we indeed believe that those who have 
been accumulating through the whole course of 
their lives confessions on absolutions, and abso- 
lutions on confessions, are penetrated, at each of 
those acts, with sincere repentance and a true love 


of Grod? "This manner of acting," says Saint 
Clement of Alexandria, " is not a true penitence, 
but a false and specious one, when we often ask 
pardon for the very same sins which we often com- 
mit;* it is insulting God, as Saint Thomas ex- 
presses it by this comparison: * Imagine a man 
kneeling before another man to whom he has 
given a blow, anH then, by way of satisfaction, 
giving him another/^t "To give fruits worthy 
of repentance," says Saint Augustin, " it is not 
sufficient to shed tears for the immoralities to 
which one has ujifortunately been addicted ; one 
must moreover renounce them for ever. ... A 
man is not purified if, after bewailing his faults, 
he falls into them as before, making no eflfort to 
correct himselfj We must either abjure Christ- 
ianity or adopt this doctrine, which is that of the 
Primitive Church, and which has been perverted 
only by ignorant Casuists and those who have 
wanted to make of religion an instrument of 
dominion and riches. There is no enlightened 
and truly religious ecclesiastic who has not ad- 
mitted, even in these latter ages of corruption, a 
doctrine so conformable to the nature of things. 
Let us corroborate this assertion by what Nicole 

* Clement Alex., Strom., 1. ii. 
t S. Thomas, Suppl. 9, 14, art. 1. 
{ S. August., Serm. 66, de Tempo. 


says upon the same subject : " As to a change of 
hearty the mortification of the passions, the re- 
nouncing the love of the world, ambition, and 
pleasure, they are things about which people never 

trouble their minds For this reason, they 

make a sport of passing by revolutions from a 
state of guilt to a state of justice ; to-day in grace, 
to-morrow in sin ; to-day raised up to life, to-mor- 
row backsliding into death 1 It is a mockery of 
God to fall back incessantly into the same crimes 
for which we have just asked his pardon." * In 
what, then, do all these confessions and penances 
finally end? In eternal damnation, according to 
principles admitted by all the fathers of the Church. 
The following is the opinion of Eusebius upon this 
subject : — 

"It will, perhaps, be said that he who, after 
sinning throughout the course of his life, receives 
penance at the point of death, finds grace before 
God. Ahl how false and vain is this opinion! 
Among a hundred thousand persons who have ha- 
bitually led a dissolute life, there is hardly one to 
be found who deserves to receive pardon from 
God. What forgiveness can he receive to whom 
men grant penance, whereas he himself would not 
ask for it, if he thought he could escape death? A 
man bom and nourished in sin, who has neither 

* Nicole, De la Fans. Penit. 


seen nor known God; who has been unwilling to 
heax his name ; who has not even perceived that 
he was sinning ; who knows not of what penitence 
consists, unless he has dreamed of it ; who is even 
now bound down with the shackles of worldly 
aiFairs, oppressed with grief for his children whom 
he is about to abandon, worn out with the suffer- 
ings of his malady, and, lastly, with the regret of 
leaving behind him his temporal wealth and pos- 
sessions, which he can no longer enjoy." * 

Saint Augustin calls into question those pe- 
nances asked for through fear, at a moment when 
it is impossible to accomplish them. " The words 
pronounced by the absolving priest are not alone 
sufficient ; for the satisfaction due to God is not 
to be obtained by words only, but by preceding 
works .... How can he do penance who has but a 
moment to live ? How can he accomplish a pe- 
nance who is totally unable to do works of atone- 
ment ? For this reason, penance demanded by a 
sick man is vain. I am afraid that penance, in 
such a case, will die with the person who demands 

* Forte qui itemm dicit, vir qui toto tempore quo vixit, 
male facit, in mortis articulo accepta poenitentia a Deo veniam 
obtinebit. Heu quam vana inspicio et falsa meditatio. Vix 
de centum millibus hominum quorum mala semper f uit vita, 
meretur a Deo habere indulgentiam, unus. Vir totus in 
peccatis genitus et enutritus, qui nee Deum vidit, nee agnovit, 
nee de eo audire voluit, nee se peccare cognovit, nee quid 


it."* We will content ourselves with quoting 
another authority, that of Saint Isidorus. ^^He who 
after leading a depraved life, demands penance at 
the point of death, is in a state of uncertainty con- 
cerning his salvation as well as about the remission 
of his sins. He, therefore, who desires to be cer- 
tain of his own salvation in the hour of death 
ought to repent when he is in good health : he 
ought to groan over the crimes he has com- 

We think we cannot conclude this work better 

poenitentia sit, nisi forte dormindo novit, totus ad hue secu- 
laribus innodatus negotiis, quern angustia premit filiorum 
quos deserit, quern infirmitas content, quern dolor diviti- 
arum et temporalium bonorum concutit, cum non eis frui 
amplius se cemit, quam acceptam Deo accepit pcenitentiam, 
quam non acciperet, si adhuc se senari crederet ? — (Eusebius 
ad Damas, de morte S. Hieronim.) 

* Ademendanda crimina vox pcenitentis sola non sufficit. 
Nam in satisfactione ingentium peccatorum, non verba tan- 
tum, sed opera quoeruntur. . . . Quomodo enim agit pceni- 
tentiam lapsus? Quomodo pcenitentiam agere possit qui 
nulla jam pro se opera satisfactionis operari potest ? Et ideo 
pcenitentia quae ab infirmo petitur infirma est. Fcenitentia 
quae a moriente tantum petitur, timeo ne in ipsa moriatur. — 
(August., serm. 57.) 

t Qui autem prave vivendo, pcenitentiam agit in mortis 
periculo, sicut ejus damnatio incerta est ; sic renussio dubia. 
Qui ergo cupit certus esse in morte de indulgentia sanus 
pceniteat ; sanus perpetrata facinora defleat. — (Isidor., sen- 
tent., 1. ii., c. 13.) 

N 3 


than by recording the opinion of a worthy and 
virtuous ecclesiastic, who, after having possessed a 
curacy in the south of France for thirty years, re- 
nounced it the moment his studies and inquiries 
into the history of Christianity had fully convinced 
him that a great part of the dogmas, opinions, and 
institutions of Catholicism, had been successively 
imagined and established by the popes, bishops, 
monks, and councils, in contradiction to the pre- 
cepts and morality of the Gospel. This estimable 
man, named LafeuiUade, with whom I have been 
intimately acquainted, had the more merit in re- 
linquishing his curacy, that he was without every 
other means of subsistence ; but, being a sincere 
friend of truth, he would have thought himself 
criminal had he continued, against the voice of his 
conscience, to preach to the people a doctrine 
which he considered as grounded upon error and 
falsehood. He even sought to make himself use- 
ful in opposing the principles of the Church of 
Rome, by publishing a work entitled. Project for 
the Union of all the Churches^ or Christianity Re- 
stored to its Primitive Institution.* In the second 
volume of this work (p. 64) he expresses himself 
as foUows upon the subject of confession, of which 

* Projet de la rSunion de tous les cultes, &c. Lyon, 1815, 
4 vol. in 80. 


he must have well known the inconveniences, 
after having exercised it for so many years : — 

" But, in comparison with the few persons to 
whom confession may be advantageous, how many 
are there to whom it becomes a source of scandal ! 
Most persons, indeed, come to the confessional 
only because it is a cuajtom, and they would cause 
too many remarks did they not take the commu- 
nion on certain festivals in the year. Thence it 
happens that, in order not to expose themselves to 
be refused an absolution, they avow to their con- 
fessor only a few peccadilloes; they take good 
care not to speak of the robberies they may have 
committed, because they are not ignorant that 
their confessor would oblige them to make restitu- 
tion ; and because, at the same time, what is good 
to take, say they, is good to keep. They also are 
very careful not to speak of their amoursy so com- 
mon among young people, because, being unwil- 
ling to renounce them, a recital of them would 
become a motive for excluding them from a parti- 
cipation in the holy mysteries. How many times 
moreover, does not shame keep them silent about 
so many secret infamous practices which it would 
be too painM to their self-respect to reveal ! Such 
persons, however, being well convinced that they 
commit abominable sacrilege in approaching the 
holy table in such a condition, accustom them- 
selves from their youth to stifle the remorse of 


their consciences, and they often become ulti- 
mately so hardened in guilt, that they commit 
with indifference the greatest crimes. 

" I appeal to your own testimony, ministers of 
the Catholic religion 1 Is not this a faithful de- 
scription of the effects which the establishment of 
confession is producing every day ? Have you not 
acquired this certainty from the declarations of so 
many dying persons racked with the remorse of 
their consciences, from whom the fear of the tor- 
tures of an impending future, and the hope of 
avoiding them have extorted avowals which they 
had never dared to make during the whole course 
of their lives ; but whose presumed return to bet- 
ter principles, obliged by circumstances, became 
henceforth useless to society ? 

" To what terrible dangers is not morality like- 
wise exposed, when a young female is so situated 
as to reveal to a young confessor that an almost 
irresistible inclination is constantly enticing her to 
vicious indulgences ? It is true, she has to make 
such declarations only through a grating ; but that 
stops only the hand, without preserving the heart 
from the dangerous attacks of love; and if the 
heart be once affected, there is nothing to prevent 
further progress, except self-respect, which, unfor- 
tunately, but too often fails when opposed to the 
influence of a passion so violent and blind. 

" From the observations I have just made, I do 


not think it can appear doubtful that morality 
will gain much by the abolition of confession, 
because the sum of the inconveniences by which 
it is attended most certainly outweighs that of 
the advantages to be derived from it. Since con- 
fession, therefore, is only a human institution, as 
I have proved in this work, it becomes an urgent 
necessity to suppress it; and the more so, as it 
seems to have been established only as a pre- 
paratory means of receiving the sacrament of the 
consecrated wafer, which is also another human 
invention, as I think I have convinced every 
candid reader who has attentively perused the 
chapter relating to it in this work." 

As it is probable that those who will read our 
"History of Confession" have never read the 
acts of the Council of Trent, we here subjoin the 
chapter in which that council enjoins auricular 
confession. We thought our readers might desire 
to become acquainted with the doctrine according 
to which that council founded this confession, and 
thus judge, by comparison, of the validity of the 
proofs which we have brought forward in the re- 
futation we have made. 





" In consequence of the institution of the sacra- 
ment of penitence^ which has already been ex- 
plained^ the universal Church has always under- 
stood that the entire confession of sins was also 
instituted by our Lord, and that it is necessary, 
by divine right, to all those who have fallen into 
sin since their baptism; for our Lord Jesus 
Christ, when about to ascend from earth to 
heaven, left priests for his vicars, and as judges 
and presidents, before whom the faithful should 
lay all the mortal sins into which they may have 
fallen; to the end that, according to the power 
which was given them to remit or retain sins. 


they should pronounce sentence, it being manifest 
that priests could not exercise this jurisdiction 
without a cognizance of the case, nor preserve 
equity in the infliction of punishment, if penitents 
declared their sins only generally, and not par- 
ticularly, and in detail. 

Thence it follows that they ought to tell and 
declare all the mortal sins of which they feel they 
are guilty, after an exact examination of their 
coi\8ciences, even though such sins be profoundly 
concealed and committed only against the two 
last precepts of the Decalogue ; sins of this sort 
being sometimes more dangerous, and wounding 
the soul more fatally than those which are com- 
mitted in the sight of the worli 

As to venial sins, by which we are not excluded 
from the grace of God, and into which we fall 
more frequently, though it be very proper, useful, 
and anything but presumptuous to confess them, 
as is proved by the custom of pious and devout 
people, they may nevertheless be omitted without 
oflence, and expiated by several other remedies. 
But all mortal sins, even those of the mind, 
rendering men the children of wrath, and the 
enemies of God, it is necessary to seek from God 
a pardon for them all by a sincere and contrite 
confession. Accordingly, when the faithful study 
to confess all the sins which occur to their 
memory, they, doubtless, expose them all to the 


mercy of God, as if to acknowledge them; and 
they who act otherwise, and voluntarily retain 
some of them, present nothing to the goodness of 
Grod that can be remitted by the priest ; for if the 
patient be ashamed to show his wound to the 
physician, his art cannot cure what he is unac- 
quainted with. 

It follows, moreover, that it is also necessary 
to explain in confession the circumstances which 
change the species of sin, because, without tjtiis, 
sins are not entirely revealed by the penitents, nor 
suflSciently known to the judges, to make a just 
estimation of the magnitude of the crimes, and to 
inflict upon penitents a suitable punishment. It 
is therefore a thing contrary to reason to publish 
that these circumstances have been invented by 
people who had no other occupation, or that it is 
suflicient to declare one, as to say that one has 
sinned against one's brother. But it is impious to 
add, that confession in this matter, such as it is 
commanded, is impossible, or to term it the an- 
noyance and torture of consciences. For it is 
imquestionable that nothing else is desired of peni- 
tents in the Church but that each, after a careful 
self-examination, and search into all the comers 
and most secret recesses of his conscience, should 
confess the sins with which he may remember to 
have mortally offended his Lord and his God. As 
for the other sins which do not occur to the mind 


of a person who attentively thinks of them, they 
are supposed to be included in general in the same 
confession ; and it is for them that we say confi- 
dently with the prophet: Cleanse me^ O Lord^from 
my secret sins. 

It must, however, be owned that confession, 
from the diflSculties which occur, and especially 
from the shame we feel in revealing our sins, might 
appear a somewhat heavy yoke, were it not ren- 
dered light by so many consolations and ad- 
vantages, which are indubitably received, from 
absolution, by all those who worthily approach 
to partake of that sacrament. 

As to the manner of confessing secretly to the 
priest alone, although Jesus Christ has not forbidden 
any one, for his own humiliation, and to revenge 
himself of his crimes, to confess them publicly, 
either for the sake of giving a good example to 
others, or for the purpose of edifying the Church 
which has been offended, it is not, however, a thing 
commanded by a divine precept, nor would it be 
fit either to order by any human law that sins, 
particularly such as are secret, should be discovered 
by a public confession. For this reason, therefore, 
and moreover in the general and unanimous con- 
sent of all the most ancient saintly fathers, who 
have ever authorised secret sacramental confession, 
which the holy Church has practised from the very 
beginning, and which she still uses at the present 


day, we see a manifest refutation of the ysin 
calumny of those who are so rash as to publish 
that it is only a human invention, foreign to the 
commands of God, and that it originated only in 
the Council of Latran, under favour of the fathers 
who were there assembled; for the Church did not 
establish, in that council, the precept of confession 
for the faithftd, well knowing that it was already 
quite established and necessary by divine right ; 
but it merely ordered that all and each of the faith- 
ful, when they have attained the age of discretion, 
should fulfil this precept of confession, at least 
once a year. Whence it comes, that in all the 
Church this salutary custom of confessing sins is 
observed with much benefit to^ the souls of the 
faithful, particularly at the holy and favourable 
season of Lent ; and the Holy Council, extremely 
approving this custom, receives and embraces it as 
fall of piety and worthy of being retained." 


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